An Interdisciplinary Working Group to Catalyze the Science of Species’ Pre-impact Distributions

About this Working Group: 

Species conservation has long focused on preventing human-driven extinctions. However, recently calls have been made for a parallel focus on species recovery. This call to action within the conservation community is fueled in part by the recognition that baselines of species abundance and distribution have shifted dramatically across human generations, with globally detectable human impacts on ecosystems beginning at least several thousand years ago. While assessment of extinction risk generally only considers species’ change over the past few decades, assessment of recovery requires considering change over centuries to millennia. A new IUCN assessment of species recovery, the Green Status of Species, formalizes this need, requiring assessors to identify species’ baseline status at the time when humans first became a major factor influencing their abundance and distribution. This Working Group will leverage the wealth of paleoecological and historical ecological data to facilitate estimation of species pre-impact distribution baselines. We will do so in a way that is accessible to conservation practitioners, helping to unshift the baseline and bring species recovery into the mainstream.

Principal investigators

H. Reşit Akçakaya
Department of Ecology and Evolution
Stony Brook University
Molly Grace
Department of Zoology
University of Oxford

About CPN Working Groups: The Conservation Paleobiology Network (CPN) sponsors working groups focused on research questions that integrate conservation paleobiologists, academic partners, wildlife managers, and stakeholders to develop effective strategies for translating products of historical research into conservation and management actions. Each working group includes meetings to develop approaches to research or applications. Working groups should engage key interest groups (conservation paleobiologists, archaeologists, environmental historians, federal and state management officers, and stakeholders) and contribute to the broader mission of the CPN of establishing conservation paleobiology as both a basic and applied discipline. Outcomes may include publications or other products developed by working groups, tutorials and lectures contributed to the CPN webinars, and/or proposals to funding agencies to support further activities. The working group panel oversees solicitation, selection, development and assessment of working groups.