Birds

Time to accept conservation triage

Like the troubled California condors Gymnogyps californianus (Nature 486, 451; 2012), more than 80% of endangered US species are imperilled by threats that cannot be eliminated, only managed. These species are “conservation reliant” (J.M. Scott et al. Conserv. Lett. 3, 91–97; 2010).

For example, the endangered Kirtland's warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii) has exceeded its recovery goals as a result of control of the brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater), which lays its eggs in warbler nests, and maintenance of warbler habitat through vegetation management. These conservation actions will be required in perpetuity if the species is to avoid extinction. But funding of such management is inadequate for all but the most iconic species, such as the condor.

Society must commit to increased investment in conservation intervention, which will take greater political motivation and broader conservation partnerships than at present. We must begin to prioritize conservation efforts and accept that conservation triage may sometimes be necessary.

Author information

Correspondence to John A. Wiens.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Wiens, J., Goble, D. & Scott, J. Time to accept conservation triage. Nature 488, 281 (2012) doi:10.1038/488281c

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.