The CREO project arose following
two investigations on recent extinctions in mammals (MacPhee and Flemming,
1999) and freshwater fishes (Harrison and Stiassny, 1999). Both studies
set out to review and evaluate all available data on recent extinctions
in order to draw conclusions about the patterns, processes, and rates
of extinction events.
Studies such as these require
accurate lists of extinct species from which to draw data. However,
these investigations found that published lists of recently extinct
species often contain incorrect or disputed information.
Problems identified with existing
extinction surveys include:
--criteria for proof of extinction
are often insufficient or imprecise
--data sources are not referenced
--taxonomic information is
The two studies on fish and
mammal extinctions brought to light a number of improvements that could
be implemented to better collect, evaluate, and document extinction
data. For example, the studies clearly indicated the importance of having
a workable methodology for making thorough and accurate assessments
of the numbers of species lost in recent times. This methodology should
establish the taxonomic validity of each species evaluated, and all
information sources used in the evaluation should be documented. Both
studies also indicated the need for publication avenues that are specifically
designed for tracking and disseminating information about modern-era
extinctions, as it is difficult to locate relevant extinction data in
the existing literature.
The objectives of CREO will
be accomplished through the work of scientists from around the world
who are being organized into Advisory Panels.
The organization of these panels will be coordinated by CREO from our
base at the American Museum of Natural
History, where we function in collaboration with the Center
for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC). The mission of the
CBC includes the integration of systematic information into the conservation
process and the dissemination of this information to local, national,
and international audiences to aid the solution of global environmental
Research into the patterns
and processes of historical and contemporary extinction events has traditionally
been of particular interest to scientists at the American Museum of
Natural History. For example, in 1997 the Museum held a symposium (Humans
and Other Catastrophes) that focused on Late Pleistocene extinctions.
Museum research has focused on direct taxonomic assessments and effects
of species losses and how extinction events can be understood in an
Thus, CREO was developed in
recognition of the value of comprehensive and reliable extinction data
for use by researchers in systematics and conservation at the American
Museum of Natural History and at other institutions around the world.