EDGE of Existence Programme
Conservation priority setting based on phylogenetic diversity has frequently been proposed but rarely implemented. One reason is the difficulty of estimating species originality in a robust fashion.
A new technique that overcomes these problems has been developed and applied to over 4,500 species of mammals. A simple index that measures the contribution made by different species to phylogenetic diversity was defined; this index now contributes towards species-based conservation priorities through the Edge of Existence programme. The study found that species that are both Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE species) receive comparatively little conservation attention. The results suggest how conservation activities should be refocused in order to prevent large amounts of our evolutionary heritage being lost in the near future.
The EDGE of Existence programme aims to address this issue by raising awareness of the word’s EDGE species on a comprehensive website (www.edgeofexistence.org) and implementing conservation strategies for the most poorly-known species. This prioritisation technique has been applied to mammals and amphibians, and will be expanded to include other groups (e.g. birds, and monocots) as the infrastructure and methods develop.
Isaac, N.J.B, Turvey, S.T., Collen, B., Waterman, C. and Baillie, J.E.M. (2007) Mammals on the EDGE: Conservation priorities based on threat and phylogeny. PLoS ONE 2(3): e296. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000296.
Turvey, S.T., Pitman, R.L., Taylor, B.L., Barlow, J., Akamatsu, T., Barrett, L.A., Zhao Xiujiang, Reeves, R.R., Stewart, B.S., Pusser, L.T., Wang Kexiong, Wei Zhuo, Zhang Xianfeng, Richlen, M., Brandon, J.R. and Wang Ding (2007). First human-caused extinction of a cetacean species? Biology Letters 3: 537-540.
Turvey, S. T., Meredith, H. M. R. and Scofield, R. P. (2008) Continued survival of Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus) in Haiti. Oryx, in press.
Baillie, J. E. M., Turvey, S. T. and Waterman, C. D. (2008) Survival of Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus attenboroughi) in northern New Guinea. Oryx, in press