A GIS-Based Comparison of the Mexican National and IUCN Methods for Determining Extinction Risk

Conservation Biology, Volume 23 Issue 5, Pages 1156 – 1166, Published Online: 19 May 2009


“The national systems used in the evaluation of extinction risk are often touted as more readily applied and somehow more regionally appropriate than the system of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). We compared risk assessments of the Mexican national system (method for evaluation of risk of extinction of wild species [MER]) with the IUCN system for the 16 Polianthes taxa (Agavaceae), a genus of plants with marked variation in distribution sizes. We used a novel combination of herbarium data, geographic information systems (GIS), and species distribution models to provide rapid, repeatable estimates of extinction risk. Our GIS method showed that the MER and the IUCN system use similar data. Our comparison illustrates how the IUCN method can be applied even when all desirable data are not available, and that the MER offers no special regional advantage with respect to the IUCN regional system. Instead, our results coincided, with both systems identifying 14 taxa of conservation concern and the remaining two taxa of low risk, largely because both systems use similar information. An obstacle for the application of the MER is that there are no standards for quantifying the criteria of habitat condition and intrinsic biological vulnerability. If these impossible-to-quantify criteria are left out, what are left are geographical distribution and the impact of human activity, essentially the considerations we were able to assess for the IUCN method. Our method has the advantage of making the IUCN criteria easy to apply, and because each step can be standardized between studies, it ensures greater comparability of extinction risk estimates among taxa.”