Conservation Biology

Heed the warnings

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Science  07 Nov 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6210, pp. 713-714
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6210.713-c
CREDIT: ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA/UIG VIA GETTY IMAGES

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passing of the last known passenger pigeon. Can studying its extinction, which happened rapidly despite the birds' relative abundance, inform today's conservation efforts? To find out, Stanton modeled this event and showed that the main causal factor was unmanaged over-harvest for food and sport. Furthermore, they found that if current monitoring and risk categorization had been in place, the rapid decline would have identified this species as endangered in time to protect it. More than just sad history, this study emphasizes that rapid declines suggest impending extinction, even if local abundance persists.

Biol. Conserv. 10.1016/j.biocon.2014.09.023 (2014).

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