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Conservation Status as a Biodiversity Trend Indicator: Recommendations from a Decade of Listing Species at Risk in British Columbia

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Abstract:  Species conservation status is commonly used as a broad‐scale indicator of the state of biological diversity. To learn about its value for tracking trends, we examined provincial lists of terrestrial vertebrate species and subspecies at risk in British Columbia, Canada, for 1992 and 2002 to see whether changes in these lists reflected changes in the status of the taxa they represent. Examination of the case histories of individual species and subspecies showed that 65% of additions and deletions to the British Columbia Red List were the result of improvement in knowledge of species status, changes in assessment procedures, and refinements in taxonomy rather than actual changes in a species' status. Comparison to an alternate set of rank scores provided by NatureServe for taxa that appeared on both 1992 and 2002 British Columbia Red Lists revealed changes in status that were not reflected by movement from the list. Estimates of historical conservation status for species on the 1992 British Columbia Red List demonstrated ambiguity around the natural baseline with regard to tracking changes in list composition over time. We discourage the continued use of indicators based solely on conservation status as a means of tracking biodiversity. Instead we recommend advancing strategic indicators around species at risk based on long‐term monitoring data, deliberate and explicitly stated baselines, and consistent methods of conservation ranking.
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Language: English

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: State of Environment Reporting, Ministry of Water, Land & Air Protection, Box 9335, Station Provincial Government, Victoria, BC V8W 9M1 Canada, 2: Conservation Data Centre, Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management, Box 9358, Station Provincial Government, Victoria, BC V8W 9M2 Canada

Publication date: August 1, 2005

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