, Volume 18, Issue 14, pp 3877-3890
Date: 10 Jul 2009

Can the IUCN criteria be effectively applied to peripheral isolated plant populations?

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The IUCN criteria 2001 are considered one of the best methods to evaluate species extinction risk at the global and regional levels. The aim of this work is to test the applicability of the IUCN criteria to peripheral isolated plant populations (PIPPs). PIPPs have been a topic of scientific debate in Conservation Biology for about 15 years and international conventions such as ESPC address the issue of their conservation. Conservation measures often rely on Red Lists based on IUCN criteria, but there is little evidence supporting their application to PIPPs. In this work, we tested the hypothesis that PIPPs’ intrinsic restricted range and rarity lead to the overestimation of their extinction risk. We compared and analyzed four IUCN criteria (A, B, C, D), considering 17 species with PIPPs in different Italian administrative regions. Special attention must be given to the spatial scale at which PIPPs are assessed, the evaluation of the threats affecting the populations, and their decline. PIPPs should not be assessed within political boundaries and we propose a new area designation that better corresponds to the characteristics of PIPPs. Criterion B is strongly biased by restricted range and overestimates the extinction risk of PIPPs, particularly when the population decline is only suspected and not observed. In this case, criterion D more accurately assesses the status of PIPPs. Criterion A is also suitable for assessing PIPPs, because it is not affected by their phytogeographic rarity. The proposed statements could also be valid for the global assessment of narrow endemic species.