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Resit Akçakaya Contributes to Endangered Species Study

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ResitAkcakayaAs chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List Standards and Petitions Subcommittee, Professor H. Resit Akçakaya, Department of Ecology and Evolution and a member of the Consortium for Inter-Disciplinary Environmental Research, helped develop guidelines for the application of rules used in assessment of threatened species. Now, a major synthesis of these threatened species assessments has shown that although one-fifth of all vertebrates are at risk of extinction, conservation efforts are making a difference in slowing the slide of many species toward extinction.

The Impact of Conservation on the Status of the World’s Vertebrates, of which Akçakaya is one of 174 co-authors, represents one of the largest collaborations in the study of biological conservation and is the most authoritative global list of species found to be near extinction.

The article, which used data from 25,780 vertebrate species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, will be published in the journal Science in coming weeks. An early online version was released in Science Express on October 26, 2010.

This is not the first time Akçakaya has been involved in conservation efforts; he has been working in the field of biological conservation since 1980 and has been involved in both practical and theoretical research on problems of species conservation, including several population viability analysis studies.

Akçakaya completed his Ph.D. in theoretical ecology in 1989. He served on the Criteria Review Working Group of the IUCN and is currently chair of its Red List Standards and Petitions Subcommittee, which develops guidelines for threatened and endangered species assessments and evaluates petitions against the red-listing of these species.

“I contributed to the development of guidelines for assessing threatened species,” said Akçakaya. “This paper is a synthesis of these kinds of assessments for the world’s vertebrates.”

The sobering news that one-fifth of the world’s vertebrate species are near extinction, and the encouraging news that the rate of endangerment is slowed down by conservation efforts, came as world politicians met in Japan at the UN’s 10th Convention on Biological Diversity to set conservation goals for 2020.

“History has shown us that conservation can achieve the impossible, as anyone who knows the story of the white rhinoceros in southern Africa is aware,” said Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission and an author on the study. “But this is the first time we can demonstrate the aggregated positive impact of these successes on the state of the environment.”

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