Is research effort allocated efficiently for conservation? Felidae as a global case study
Some species face greater anthropogenic threats than others, and have increased need for scarce conservation resources. Yet how resources are allocated for conservation remains little known. I examined the distribution of research effort, an index of resource allocation, across Felidae (the cat family), a diverse, widely-distributed, and threatened taxon. I performed complete searches of the published literature for all cat species from 1986 to 2007, collecting a total of 2,462 papers, of which 926 represented in situ studies. Threat status, as ranked by a World Conservation Union report in 1996, was significantly correlated with geographical range size, with narrowly distributed species tending to be more at risk. Unlike in many other taxa, threat status was not correlated with body size. The number of total and in situ publications (“research effort”) per species was significantly and positively related to body size, but not to threat status or geographical range size. Research effort, rather than being distributed according to actual threat status, is highly skewed towards large species. However, the ratio of the number of studies on the 10 smallest cat species to the number on the 10 largest species has increased significantly since 1986. Yet many species remain severely understudied; I identify 14 cat species that are threatened and have <10 in situ publications each. These species critically require a greater share of the conservation research effort.
KeywordsBody size Cats Extinction risk Geographical range size Mismatch Prioritization Research effort Threat status
This project was supported by a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship. The quality of the manuscript was greatly improved by comments from C. Nelson, O. Helmy, M. Runkin, and L. Bean.
- Dinerstein E (1999) Preface. In: Ricketts TH, Dinerstein E, Olson D, Colby J (eds) Terrestrial ecoregions of North America. A conservation assessment. Island Press. Washington, D.C, p xxiGoogle Scholar
- IUCN (2004) Red list of threatened species. International Union for the Conservation of Nature (World Conservation Union), GlandGoogle Scholar
- Karanth KU (2003) Tiger ecology and conservation in the Indian subcontinent. J Bombay Nat Hist Soc 100:169–189Google Scholar
- Karanth KU, Nichols JD (2002) Monitoring tigers and their prey. Centre for Wildlife Studies, BangaloreGoogle Scholar
- Kareiva P, Levin SA (2002) The importance of species: perspectives on expendability and triage. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
- Nowak RM (1999) Walker’s mammals of the world, sixth edn. The John’s Hopkins University Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
- Nowell K, Jackson P (1996) Wild cats: status survey and conservation action plan. International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, GlandGoogle Scholar
- Seidensticker J, Christie S, Jackson P (1999) Riding the tiger: tiger conservation in human-dominated landscapes. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Stattersfield AJ, Crosby MJ, Long AJ, Wege DC (1998) Endemic bird areas of the world. Smithsonian, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
- USFWS (1983) Endangered and threatened species listing and recovery priority guidelines. Fed Regist 48:43098–43105Google Scholar
- Wilson DE, Reeder DM (2005) Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference, 3rd edn. The Johns Hopkins University Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar