A return-on-investment approach for prioritization of rigorous taxonomic research needed to inform responses to the biodiversity crisis

Jane Melville, David G. Chapple, J. Scott Keogh, Joanna Sumner, Andrew Amey, Phil Bowles, Ian G. Brennan, Patrick Couper, Stephen C. Donnellan, Paul Doughty, Danielle L. Edwards, Ryan J. Ellis, Damien Esquerré, Jéssica Fenker, Michael G. Gardner, Arthur Georges, Margaret L. Haines, Conrad J. Hoskin, Mark Hutchinson, Craig MoritzJames Nankivell, Paul Oliver, Carlos J. Pavón-Vázquez, Mitzy Pepper, Daniel L. Rabosky, Kate Sanders, Glenn Shea, Sonal Singhal, Jessica Worthington Wilmer, Reid Tingley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Global biodiversity loss is a profound consequence of human activity. Disturbingly, biodiversity loss is greater than realized because of the unknown number of undocumented species. Conservation fundamentally relies on taxonomic recognition of species, but only a fraction of biodiversity is described. Here, we provide a new quantitative approach for prioritizing rigorous taxonomic research for conservation. We implement this approach in a highly diverse vertebrate group—Australian lizards and snakes. Of 870 species assessed, we identified 282 (32.4%) with taxonomic uncertainty, of which 17.6% likely comprise undescribed species of conservation concern. We identify 24 species in need of immediate taxonomic attention to facilitate conservation. Using a broadly applicable return-on-investment framework, we demonstrate the importance of prioritizing the fundamental work of identifying species before they are lost.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3001210
Number of pages14
JournalPLOS BIOLOGY
Volume19
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

Keywords

  • Global biodiversity loss
  • Australian Society of Herpetologists
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List
  • IUCN Red List
  • taxonomic recognition of species
  • taxonomic uncertainty
  • undescribed species of conservation concern

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