When all life counts in conservation
- Publication Type:
- Journal Article
- Conservation Biology, 2019
- Issue Date:
© 2019 Society for Conservation Biology Conservation science involves the collection and analysis of data. These scientific practices emerge from values that shape who and what is counted. Currently, conservation data are filtered through a value system that considers native life the only appropriate subject of conservation concern. We examined how trends in species richness, distribution, and threats change when all wildlife count by adding so-called non-native and feral populations to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and local species richness assessments. We focused on vertebrate populations with founding members taken into and out of Australia by humans (i.e., migrants). We identified 87 immigrant and 47 emigrant vertebrate species. Formal conservation accounts underestimated global ranges by an average of 30% for immigrants and 7% for emigrants; immigrations surpassed extinctions in Australia by 52 species; migrants were disproportionately threatened (33% of immigrants and 29% of emigrants were threatened or decreasing in their native ranges); and incorporating migrant populations into risk assessments reduced global threat statuses for 15 of 18 species. Australian policies defined most immigrants as pests (76%), and conservation was the most commonly stated motivation for targeting these species in killing programs (37% of immigrants). Inclusive biodiversity data open space for dialogue on the ethical and empirical assumptions underlying conservation science.
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