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Towards reassessing data-deficient species

Bland, L.M., Bielby, J., Kearney, S., Orme, C.D.L., Watson, J.E.M. and B. Collen (2016). Towards reassessing data-deficient species. Conservation Biology. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12850

One in six species (13,465 spp.) on the IUCN Red List are currently classified as Data Deficient due to lack of information on their taxonomy, population status or impact of threats. Despite the chance that many are at high risk of extinction, Data Deficient species are typically excluded from global and local conservation priorities as well as funding schemes. The number of Data Deficient species will greatly increase as the Red List becomes more inclusive of poorly known and speciose groups. A strategic approach is urgently needed to enhance the conservation value of Data Deficient assessments. To develop this, we reviewed 2,879 Data Deficient assessments in six animal groups and identified eight main justifications for assigning Data Deficient status (type series, few records, old records, uncertain provenance, uncertain population status and/or distribution, uncertain threats, taxonomic uncertainty, new species). Assigning a consistent set of justification tags to species classified as Data Deficient is a simple way to achieve more strategic assessments. Such tags will: clarify the causes of data deficiency; facilitate the prediction of extinction risk; facilitate comparisons of data deficiency among taxonomic groups; and help prioritize species for re-assessment. With renewed efforts, it could be straightforward to prevent thousands of Data Deficient species slipping unnoticed towards extinction.

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