With the number of species facing extinction escalating at an unprecedented speed and much of the planet’s unique biodiversity in increasing danger of being lost, there is a real urgency to implement coherent conservation initiatives on a global scale.
International conservation funds are desperately limited and conservationists are faced with the unenviable task of having to prioritise which species are more deserving of conservation attention than others. There are a number of different methods of prioritising species for conservation attention, focusing variously on threatened species, restricted-range endemics, ‘flagship’, ‘umbrella’, ‘keystone’, ‘landscape’ or ‘indicator’ species, or species with significant economic, ecological, scientific or cultural value.
Despite the range of methods available, conservation attention tends to be focused on charismatic and internationally recognisable endangered species such as elephants, tigers and rhinos. The EDGE of Existence programme has identified a gap in current conservation efforts – two-thirds of the top 100 EDGE mammals are currently receiving little or no conservation attention. The situation is even more alarming for amphibians, with a staggering 85% currently receiving little or no conservation attention.
The world would be a poorer place without these weird and wonderful EDGE species. They are truly one of a kind animals and if they become extinct there will be nothing like them left on the planet. Furthermore, EDGE species represent a disproportionate amount of unique evolutionary history (branches versus twigs in the evolutionary tree of life) and maintaining this diversity will help life to adapt and evolve in our rapidly changing world.
The EDGE approach complements rather than replaces existing conservation efforts. For example, focusing on protecting large ecosystems or landscapes remains fundamental to conservation. The EDGE approach helps to ensure that some of the world’s most remarkable species do not fall through the conservation net and fade to extinction unnoticed.