Assessing species at risk

One of the objectives of sustainable forest management is the maintenance of all forest values while maintaining a steady supply of timber or fiber. One of the most significant challenges is the long-term provision of habitat for all relevant species. This can be particularly challenging as species are prioritized for conservation due to their status as species at risk.

“At risk” designations are categorical descriptions that indicate a species’ estimated relative probability of facing extinction over a given time period. Due to the lack of reliable information (e.g., population demographics, detailed habitat assessments) about many rare and cryptic species, many extinction risk estimates are based on indicators and surrogates of extinction risk, such as reduced area of occupancy, limited range, or inherent characteristics such as low reproductive rates or narrow ecological niche.

Due to the priority placed on conserving species that are at higher extinction risk, it is vital that risk assessments are accurate, reliable, repeatable, and transparent. Excessive or unnecessary listings carry unnecessary costs, and pull conservation dollars away from species in greater need; insufficient assessments fail to provide adequate protection for species at real risk. However, reliable risk assessment procedures require significant investments of time, data, and effort, and are relatively complex.

To enhance understanding of these complexities, NCASI will soon release a Technical Bulletin titled Review of the History and Scientific Basis for Species at Risk Listings in Canada: Challenges and Opportunities. This report will document the scientific theory and ecological underpinnings of species at risk assessments, review the methodologies used by both the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and suggest possible means to improve the process, particularly with respect to the assessment process in Canada.  

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