, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 205-232

Extinction threat evaluation of endemic fig trees of New Caledonia: Priority assessment for taxonomy and conservation with herbarium collections

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This article focuses on the relationship between priority-setting in conservation and in taxonomy. A simple and generally applicable scheme is presented based on prior quantitative extinction threat evaluation. In the main part of the study we describe the assessment of the herbarium voucher collection date time series of 21 endemic fig tree species of Ficus sect. Oreosycea (Moraceae). The fig tree assessment is then compared with the available IUCN Red List data and with the collection information on two other groups of endemic tree radiations in New Caledonia: ebonies of Diospyros sect. Maba (Ebenaceae) and the Iguanura palm lineage (Arecaceae). We find a remarkably low level of extinction threat evident in Ficus but a pronounced need to differentiate between true species rarity and putative rarity of potential taxonomic artifacts. To this end it is proposed how such numerical evaluations can be used to set future priorities for the assessment or validation of the taxonomic and conservation status of taxa. The limitations and implications of the evaluation are discussed and relevant criteria for a meaningful analysis of collection records are listed. Finally, putting our results on woody plants into perspective, we briefly review the general conservation situation and outlook of New Caledonia, acknowledging both its high conservation priority and potential.