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Nearly 75 per cent of the world's most evolutionarily unique mammals face extinction, in part because they receive little or no conservation attention. If these species become extinct, there are no similar animals on

Nearly 75 per cent of the world's most evolutionarily unique mammals face extinction, in part because they receive little or no conservation attention. If these species become extinct, there are no similar animals on
earth to replace them.

Living on the EDGE

April 5, 2007

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By Marianne Meadahl

EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) is the name of a new method of prioritizing species for conservation. SFU graduate student Dave Redding, working with SFU biologist Arne Mooers, is helping pioneer the method, which assigns values to endangered animal species more quantitatively than current methods.

Using EDGE, researchers assign every species an ‘originality' value based on its evolutionary isolation, then multiply that value by the probability that the species will become extinct.

The approach is now the focus of a major conservation scheme at the London Zoological Society (www.edgeofexistence.org). Working with the London Zoo and other organizations, Redding has been assigned the task of applying this method to all of the world's birds to complement the EDGE mammal list that received global attention when it was released earlier this year.

Among mammals, the Baiji, or Yangtze River dolphin, is highlighted as the highest-priority mammal. Preliminary results for birds show that the Edge-iest species is the Kagu, a threatened heron-like bird found on New Caledonia in the South Pacific.

Closer to home in B.C., the rarely seen mountain beaver has been promoted from 1065th highest-priority mammal in the world to the 195th most important, suggesting added importance should be placed on our local populations.

Mooers and Redding have written papers on how scientific protocol could be changed so that more attention can be placed on such species as the tailed frog, one of the most original species in the world. Concern for the creature was raised during an upgrade of the alpine run at Whistler.

Redding is working on his PhD at SFU while Mooers is in Germany (until July) at the Interdisciplinary Institute of Advanced Study in Berlin, studying how species and nature can be valued in different ways.

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