Conservation resource allocation, small population resiliency, and the fallacy of conservation triage

David A. Wiedenfeld, Allison C. Alberts, Ariadne Angulo, Elizabeth L. Bennett, Onnie Byers, Topiltzin Contreras-MacBeath, Gláucia Drummond, Gustavo A.B. da Fonseca, Claude Gascon, Ian Harrison, Nicolas Heard, Axel Hochkirch, William Konstant, Penny F. Langhammer, Olivier Langrand, Frederic Launay, Daniel J. Lebbin, Susan Lieberman, Barney Long, Zhi LuMichael Maunder, Russell A. Mittermeier, Sanjay Molur, Razan Khalifa al Mubarak, Michael J. Parr, Jonah Ratsimbazafy, Anders G.J. Rhodin, Anthony B. Rylands, Jim Sanderson, Wes Sechrest, Pritpal Soorae, Jatna Supriatna, Amy Upgren, Jean Christophe Vié, Li Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Some conservation prioritization methods are based on the assumption that conservation needs overwhelm current resources and not all species can be conserved; therefore, a conservation triage scheme (i.e., when the system is overwhelmed, species should be divided into three groups based on likelihood of survival, and efforts should be focused on those species in the group with the best survival prospects and reduced or denied to those in the group with no survival prospects and to those in the group not needing special efforts for their conservation) is necessary to guide resource allocation. We argue that this decision-making strategy is not appropriate because resources are not as limited as often assumed, and it is not evident that there are species that cannot be conserved. Small population size alone, for example, does not doom a species to extinction; plants, reptiles, birds, and mammals offer examples. Although resources dedicated to conserving all threatened species are insufficient at present, the world's economic resources are vast, and greater resources could be dedicated toward species conservation. The political framework for species conservation has improved, with initiatives such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other international agreements, funding mechanisms such as The Global Environment Facility, and the rise of many nongovernmental organizations with nimble, rapid-response small grants programs. For a prioritization system to allow no extinctions, zero extinctions must be an explicit goal of the system. Extinction is not inevitable, and should not be acceptable. A goal of no human-induced extinctions is imperative given the irreversibility of species loss.

Original languageEnglish
JournalConservation Biology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • conservation triage
  • extinction
  • financial resources
  • small populations
  • zero extinction


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