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A computer program could decide which species are saved from extinction with limited money

A computer program could decide which species are saved from extinction with limited money

Researchers from Australia have developed an efficient method to save a wide range of threatened species, including the oldest and rarest that can be costly to protect. The new technique of the CEED (Center of Excellence for Environmental Decisions) helps to maximize both the preservation of species and genetic diversity, to face the conservation dilemma of preserving more or fewer species, or to focus on those unique and older that are more expensive to save.

"The global extinction crisis is getting worse, and conservation funds are rarely enough to stop biodiversity declining," says Joseph Bennett, a researcher at CEED and the University of Queensland. "This is like a burning library and we have to save as much valuable information as we can." "If we have to choose, do we go for the rare and old books, or do we take a greater number of smaller books that may contain less information than the older volumes?" He asks. Bennett explains that highly differentiated species have few close relatives, and their lineage has been isolated on the tree of life for many millions of years.

The platypus is an example of a 'rare ancient tome' from Australia - its ancestors diverged from other mammals sometime between 160 and 200 million years ago.

As different species become isolated from each other, they also contain unique genes, which may in the future be very important for the health of ecosystems, or even the development of medicine. For example, Ginkgo biloba is a genetically distinct ancient species that was once near extinction, but now traditional medicine is used, he says. "So the loss of the most distinct species could mean the loss of this genetic information, along with millions of years of evolution," he says.

"But when these species are expensive to protect, it may mean spending money to save one or two species instead of five or ten." COMPUTER PROGRAM To solve this dilemma, CEED researchers have developed a computer program that predicts how many species and the amount of genetic diversity that can be saved with a given amount of money. The program consists of classifying each species based on different criteria, including to what extent it is threatened, the cost of preserving it, and to what extent it is genetically unique.

"We used the program in a study with the 700 most threatened species in New Zealand," says Bennett.

"In the study, we emphasized the importance of saving rare species, so the more unique their genes are, the higher they align." "Using this program, we have found a balance that would save the greatest number of different species, while conserving the maximum genetic diversity within a given budget," he adds. The team found that the best solutions mean spending money on a few less distinct species if a single species is so expensive that it has significantly reduced the total number of species - and genetic diversity - that could be conserved with those resources.

"But the good news is that our best solutions were still capable of reaching 95 percent of most species and 95 percent of the more genetic diversity that we could achieve for any budget," he concludes. The study has been published in Biological Conservation.

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"The global extinction crisis is getting worse, and conservation funds are rarely enough to stop biodiversity declining," says Joseph Bennett, a researcher at CEED and the University of Queensland. "If we have to choose, do we go for the rare and old books, or do we take a greater number of smaller books that may contain less information than the older volumes?" He asks. Bennett explains that highly differentiated species have few close relatives, and their lineage has been isolated on the tree of life for many millions of years. The platypus is an example of a 'rare ancient tome' from Australia - its ancestors diverged from other mammals sometime between 160 and 200 million years ago. As different species become isolated from each other, they also contain unique genes, which may in the future be very important for the health of ecosystems, or even the development of medicine. For example, Ginkgo biloba is a genetically distinct ancient species that was once near extinction, but now traditional medicine is used, he says. "So the loss of the most distinct species could mean the loss of this genetic information, along with millions of years of evolution," he says. "But when these species are expensive to protect, it may mean spending money to save one or two species instead of five or ten." The program consists of classifying each species based on different criteria, including to what extent it is threatened, the cost of preserving it, and to what extent it is genetically unique. "We used the program in a study with the 700 most threatened species in New Zealand," says Bennett. "In the study, we emphasized the importance of saving rare species, so the more unique their genes are, the higher they align." The team found that the best solutions mean spending money on some less distinct species if a single species is so expensive that it has significantly reduced the total number of species - and genetic diversity - that could be conserved with those resources. "But the good news is that our best solutions were still capable of reaching 95 percent of most species and 95 percent of the more genetic diversity that we could achieve for any budget," he concludes. The study has been published in Biological Conservation.

Source: http://www.ecoticias.com/naturaleza/98847/programa-informatico-podria-decidir-especies-salvan-extincion-dinero-limitado


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