Back on Track species prioritisation framework criteria

Paper daisy  Photo:  S. Williams

Paper daisy  Photo:  S. Williams

Back on Track species prioritisation framework (Back on Track) has been adapted from Optimizing allocation of management resources for wildlife (Marsh et al., 2007).

Species regardless of their current conservation status are assessed against three sets of criteria; probability of extinction, consequences of extinction and potential for successful recovery, were adapted to enable a state wide approach to species assessments that is both explicit and transparent.

Each species is assessed by a panel of technical experts with knowledge of a particular taxonomic group. For each species a score is given, from 1 to 4, for each criterion.

1. Probability of extinction

This criterion assesses the risk of extinction for a species. Experts are asked to select which IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) threatened species category best reflects the current status of the species. For example, a species assessed as Endangered is given a score of 4, and a species considered Least concern a score of 1. The scoring of this criterion provides an up-to-date assessment of the status of a species, which may differ from its current listed status under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NCA).

2. Consequences of extinction

This criterion consists of three sub criteria that assess the ecological, global and social consequences of a species becoming extinct in Queensland.

2.a. Ecological redundancy: Experts are asked to assess, to the best of their knowledge, what role a species plays in its ecosystem. For example, a species assessed as a keystone species (eg a pollinator or top predator) is given a score of 4 and a species which shares a similar role to many other species in the ecosystem as other species is given a score of 1.

2.b. Endemicity and abundance patterns: This criterion assesses what proportion of the global population of the species occurs in Queensland. Species with the majority of their range in Queensland receive a score of 4, and those species with less than 15% of their global population in Queensland receive a score of 1.

2.c. Social values: This criterion assesses the value of the species to humans. This includes non-use values (the value of the species existing in the wild) and use values (the value of the species for consumptive or non-consumptive use). A species of high social value to mainstream community is given a score of 4, and a species which is generally unknown to the wider community a score of 1.

Anglefish  Photo: Queensland Government

Anglefish  Photo: Queensland Government

3. Potential for successful recovery

This criteria assesses our understanding of why the species is declining (the threats), whether it is possible to manage these threats, and the amount of time and effort required to recover the species.

3.a. Knowledge of threatening processes: This criterion assesses the level of knowledge of the threats affecting a species. A species whose threatening processes are regarded as well understood will receive a score of 4, where as a species where this is not known receives a score of 1. The success of species conservation projects depends on an understanding of the threatening processes.

3.b. Capacity to affect recovery by controlling threatening processes: Some species have threats that can be more easily controlled than others, these species are given a score a 4. Other threatening processes, such as global warming, are more difficult to control via unilateral management intervention based in Queensland and as such receive a score of 1. There is a need to ensure that the actions undertaken will have a realistic and achievable benefit to species recovery and conservation.

3.c. Need for ongoing management (as distinct from monitoring): When resources are scarce, it may be more appropriate to assign management priority to species for which the threatening processes can be countered by a simple action rather than expensive long-term management. Species that require little to no ongoing resources to manage threats score 4, where as species that require a large or long-term commitment of funds to control threats are ranked lower.

How the scores from this assessment are used to identify priority species and actions for their recovery is detailed under the Back on Track species prioritisation framework approach.

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