Conservation Needs Assessments?
Conservation resources are
limited, and with thousands of threatened species in need of help, the
Conservation Needs Assessment process managed by
Amphibian Ark seeks to objectively and
consistently identify priority species and their immediate conservation
The Conservation Needs Assessment process was initially developed in
2006, during an
Amphibian Ex Situ Conservation Planning
workshop in El Valle de Anton, Panama, when a taxon selection
and prioritization working group developed a decision tree for the
selection and prioritization of species that are most in need of ex
situ (captive) assistance. The decision tree has subsequently been
further reviewed and refined, and has now evolved into the Amphibian Ark
Conservation Needs Assessment process, which now generates prioritized recommendations
for both in situ (in the wild) and ex situ
conservation actions. The assessment process has proven to be a logical,
transparent, and repeatable procedure for guiding amphibian conservation
activities within a country or region.
Between 2007 and the end of 2014, Amphibian Ark staff have facilitated
workshops to assess the conservation needs of 3,375 (46%) of the world’s
amphibian species at 26
national or regional workshops. With
funding for physical workshops becoming more and more scarce, the
decision was made to build an online application to replicate the
assessment process as a solution for ensuring assessments could
continue. In late 2014 a new, online assessment program was developed,
and all previous assessments were migrated into the online database.
The conservation needs assessment tool has been structured in two
sections: The first section concerns assessing species for both in
situ and ex situ conservation actions - i.e. with limited
resources (space, staff, money etc.) which species should have ex
situ programs established ahead of others; which species urgently
need field research or protection, etc. It takes the form of a
series of questions with weighted
scores. The total score for a species determines its priority for
The second section includes
questions ensuring that there is
authorization for any proposed ex situ conservation program, and
that founder animals are available. Some questions may not be
straightforward to answer and will require consultation with colleagues,
taxonomic experts and other individuals/groups working with the species.
The information provided in sections one and two is then used to
categorize each species for one or more
conservation actions. A series of
reports is available for
each conservation action, and these are then used to guide the next
steps required for the conservation of each species. At the national
level, this is most often a National Action Plan for the group of
species being assessed (e.g. Amphibians). Conservation practitioners are
then able to focus their efforts and resources on the species and
environments that are most in need of help, and are likely to benefit
the most from those efforts.
The Conservation Needs Assessment process has been an evolving protocol.
The criteria and their rankings have been adjusted as experience with
the process was gained, and we continue to work with the broader
conservation community to identify goals, threats, and conservation
options. Assessments and prioritization of individual species are reviewed and updated as we gain knowledge and as the threats to each
species change. Thus, there will be a need to constantly assess species
status and monitor threats, so that emerging critical situations are
responded to sufficiently quickly.
Prior to the development of this online application, Conservation Needs
Assessments were generally carried out during physical workshops where
scientists, field biologists, animal husbandry experts and other
stakeholders met, and worked as a single group to assess all of the
species of a given Class (e.g. amphibians), in the particular country or
region. This process results in a single assessment for each species for
each of the countries that the species occurs in. Using this online
assessors will work independently from each other, to assess
species, and generate subsequent conservation recommendations. If
multiple assessments exist for the same species in the same countries,
they will be consolidated, to give a final, single set of recommended
conservation actions for each species.
From early 2015 onwards, national conservation needs assessments can now
be undertaken either during a physical workshop or by using the online
program. Assessments from previous workshops can also be reviewed and
updated using the online process. The online program will be used during any future workshop-based assessments, so all new and updated assessments from this point on will be available online.
Advantages and disadvantages of both the workshop and the online method
of assessment are discussed on the
Planning a national assessment page,
along with suggestions for planning national assessments.
Most often, national IUCN Amphibian
(ASG) Chairs will help to coordinate the assessment of
all amphibian species in their country over a relatively short time
period, with the subsequent assessments and recommendations for
conservation actions being used as the basis for the development of a
national amphibian action plan.