By Kirsten Martin
In conservation, there is an ongoing debate over triage. Advocates of triage argue that some extinctions are unavoidable, and that fixed, limited and fully fungible resources are therefore best allocated where they are most likely to yield the largest conservation benefit. That is, they perceive conservation essentially as an economic optimisation problem.
But the opponents of triage believe the opposite. They argue that species recovery is possible no matter how few individuals remain, that small peripheral subpopulations may contain genetic diversity not available in larger core populations, and that funds and resources are neither fixed nor fully fungible. They think that conservation resources are at least partly tied to particular sites and species, and can be increased.
Needless to say, both sides have strong opinions and more research and case studies are needed to gain a further understanding. The Frontiers Research Topic “Triage in Conversation” hopes to shed a brighter light on the debate.
Professor Ralf Buckley, Specialty Chief Editor of the section Frontiers in Conservation, recently wrote an article entitled “Grand challenges in conservation research.” We asked him about the debate and the importance of this research.
Tell me about the Research Topic (the research area and background)
Essentially it is about practical conservation strategies. Should we focus first on the most endangered species, sites and ecosystems, or should we focus first on those where we have highest efficiency, i.e. likely outcome per unit cost?
Why do a Research Topic on this area? Why now?
Because there is a growing new body of research which advocates economic-efficiency approaches, and that has the unavoidable effect of triage, abandoning some species to extinction. This explicit strategy is recent, and deserves more careful consideration.
What questions are you hoping to answer with the topic?
We want to set out explicitly the pros and cons of triage approaches, and distinguish different types of triage (e.g. sites or species), and different criteria for evaluation (ecological, social, economic).
Why should researchers contribute? How does the Frontiers Research Topic process make your goals possible?
Because this is one of the key controversies in conservation at the moment, and one where researchers can make a direct and consequential contribution to policy and practice.