Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Pacific Regional Red List

The Red List, a rather grim survey of the state of the world's biodiversity that highlights which species are particularly under threat of extinction, is one of the signature products of the IUCN. It is global in scope which gives it wide applicability, but sometimes details get lost in the mass of data. For example a search of "Pacific" in the list results in 160 entries, a number of which are not taxa from the the Pacific Islands, and those that are are primarily made up of the French Polynesian species Partula land snails.

This month however, IUCN have reviewed a number of species in preparation for a regional red list for the South Pacific, and have published a draft available at this website. It's a decent piece of work: 3769 species have been assessed, of which (to look at the bright side of things!) 1605 are considered to be of least concern. The worrying thing is that nearly the equivalent number (1060) are considered to be in threat of extinction, 177 of which are critically so.

There has been some discussion about the usefulness and validity of these documents, particularly for non-vertebrates. I see with some mirth that they confidently state the estimated number of described species to be 4911 (love the precision!), and I like the comment "Even experts contributing to global species assessments are often unable to provide an accurate estimate of the number of known species". Even experts eh...

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