Workshop: May 15 and 16, 1999
The CREO spring workshop was
Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC)
at Columbia University
for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC) at the American Museum
of Natural History
of the Workshop
The purpose of the workshop
was to develop a system of criteria and categories that can be used
to assess evidence for extinction across major taxonomic groups.
Why is it Important
to Accomplish this Objective?
If we do not all agree on how
we analyze evidence in order to confirm extinctions, "extinction" will
mean something different to everyone, and resulting surveys of extinct
species will be inconsistent. However, determining uniform criteria
to use for assessing extinction evidence across all taxa can be complicated,
because differences in the biology and ecology of different taxonomic
groups can significantly affect the way that the group is sampled and
the way its population dynamics are monitored. In other words, criteria
that are appropriate to apply for some taxa may not be necessary for
Strategy and Agenda
We have already developed prototype
criteria and categories for analyzing fish and mammal extinctions.
We sent information about these criteria and categories out to all CREO
Advisory Panels, along with a feasibility
survey that asked specific questions about how these criteria would
need to be refined and adapted to apply to other taxonomic groups.
Results from the Feasibility
Surveys have been compiled, and these results have indicated what issues
will require discussion at the workshop. The workshop agenda was developed
from the responses to the surveys, and was designed to tackle the most
pertinent issues that were raised.
Specific issues discussed at
the workshop include:
1. Species Concepts: What
units should we count?
2. What evidence indicates
that a species is extinct?
3. What evidence allows us
to establish an extinction date?
(For the second and third
issue, our objective was to develop a system of criteria for acceptable
evidence that has some flexibility. The system should allow for certain
criteria to be acceptable in some cases but not necessarily all, reflecting
differences in how reliably different species or different taxa can
be detected (i.e. species/taxa that are easily sampled/identified
vs. those that are rare/cryptic).
Because of space and budget
constraints, we were only able to invite the chairs (or other representatives)
for each panel for animal taxa (Amphibia, Aves, Coleoptera, Crustacea,
Lepidoptera, Mammalia, Mollusca, Pisces, Reptilia), and three representatives
for plant taxa. Representatives from the World Conservation Monitoring
Centre, the Species Survival Commission, and The Nature Conservancy
also attended. (See the agenda for
more information about specific speakers and presentations.)
Take a look at the Results
of the Workshop.