Big Cross Post

John Shuey jshuey at TNC.ORG
Fri Apr 12 16:06:26 EDT 2002

  I'm bored (I'm actually proposal writing, when I'd rather be outside doing
the work) so I have to comment on part of Ron's post;

  > -
  > How many other mysteries are there under our noses.  Little Wood Satyrs?
  > Banded Hairstreaks?  Tiger Swallowtails?   One pattern has emerged.  It
  > among the "common and widespread" entities that the siblings are
  > masked and
  > hiding.  To the conservationist in me it tells me we need to discover
  > (collect), to determine, and describe these unknowns/unrecognized
  > now while
  > they are still here and before it is too late.  The work being done by
  > Wahlberg and Scott on Phyciodes points out the need for local
  > to supply specimens for analysis to them (especially from the
  > southern US).
  > The entities are so wide spread and the questions so many, that it is
  > impossible for one or two "professionals" to do for just _one_
  > complex, let
  > alone all of them.
  > This post is not a sly way to promote "collecting".  It is a post to say
  > that the politicized agenda of anti-collecting and
  > anti-scientific names is
  > totally counterproductive when it comes to real life conservation.  We
  > not protect that which we do not know!  And we can not know without
  > specimens.   It is as simple as that.
  If Ron isn't just plain wrong on this issue, then the conservation
movement is totally screwed.  There are two diametrically opposed levels of
"knowledge" involved in conservation.  Conservation is about conserving ALL
levels of biological organization - commonly broken down into communities,
species and within species variation.  Opposed to this is the simple fact
that you cannot "know" all the details of these types of targets.  So, I
work on a daily basis on the assumption that we can protect what we don't
know - but to do this, you have to have a pretty solid strategy.  TNC has
been developing what we call a "Blue-print" for conservation that is
designed to accomplish this in the areas we work.  In a nut-shell - here's
how we have been trying to conserve it all:

  We use what is called a "complimentary" approach to selecting conservation
areas. That means simply that we use a system that build upon itself, and
new sites are chosen based on how they relate to those already identified
for conservation.   And we use a "coarse filter / fine filter approach"

  Coarse Filter - is simply some higher-level of organization that
represents assemblages of species  TNC uses plant community types and we try
to protect high quality examples of all plant community types  (In 1994, TNC
recognized 4,149 different terrestrial community types in the US - aquatic
and subterranean communities types are not yet completed).
  Fine Filter - Use very rare species as indicators.  Protect the habitats
that are critical for preserving these species.  Based on global and state

        The basic premise is that you can capture the vast majority of
species by protecting examples of all community types.  This dual approach
is designed to assure the protection of as many species as possible.  This
is further enhanced by identifying sites for each community that span
environmental gradients - for example, a limestone glade in Indiana is very
different than a limestone glade in northern Alabama - and those glades in
Kentucky and Tennessee are intermediate so you need to make sure that
examples of these get conserved as well.  And then, don't forget that that
there are siltstone glades, sandstone glades and those weird Nashville Basin
limestone glades that are all different community types and need to be
treated similarly.

If the coarse filter works, and you implement it across the correct
environmental gradients, then you should pick up all those odd-ball cryptic
species that you had no clue about.  Examples from Indiana include
Celastrina nigra and Celastrina neglectamajor - both of which have all their
known extant populations on dedicated nature preserves (protected because of
the plant communities present).  Same for Erynnis perius, E lucilius,
Incisalia iris and Lycaeides melissa samuelis.  Same for Lyceana dorcas.
Same for Speyeria idalia, Probelma byssus etc....  None of the preserves
that these species survive on were conserved with an eye towards

But then there is Neonympha m mitchellii - which is so rare in Indiana that
it fell through the cracks.  In this case mitchellii is a fine filter, and
is targeted separately (because we actually know enough about it to do
that).  But fine filters are hard to justify, because they leave the
impression that conservation is about "one-species-at-a-time" protection.

So..., what Ron talks about is important, but we will simply never know all
the details for all the taxa.  It's nice to have the insights from Phyciodes
and Celastrina - because they allow you to "test" the effectiveness of
whatever conservation strategy you are implementing.  And if you don't
manage to pick up those newly "discovered" entities, then you probably need
to rethink your strategy.

John A. Shuey
Director of Conservation Science
Indiana Office of The Nature Conservancy
1505 N Delaware Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202

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