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Home arrow Environment arrow Bats in the Anthropocene: Conservation of Bats in a Changing World

IV Conservation Approaches, Educational and Outreach Programs

The Roles of Taxonomy and Systematics in Bat Conservation

Susan M. Tsang, Andrea L. Cirranello, Paul J.J. Bates and Nancy B. Simmons

Abstract Taxonomy—the description, naming, and classification of organisms— and systematics—the study of the evolutionary relationships of organisms—are both crucial components in conservation, providing a necessary framework for any conservation initiative. With more than 200 new bat species identified or raised from synonymy in the past decade and additional taxa described monthly, the Age of Discovery is ongoing for bats. New taxonomic and systematic discoveries clarify the status of populations, and the recognition of distinct species and lineages allows appropriate conservation strategies to be crafted, increasing the likelihood of recovery. In addition to identifying species and specimens, taxonomists care for vouchers, provide species lists for localities, and communicate taxonomic ideas to non-experts, especially through descriptions, keys, and field guides. Taxonomists can also provide conservation planning tools such as inventory data, estimates of extinction risk and extinction rate, and information for defining protected areas. Despite the importance of taxonomy, a lack of financial and institutional support impedes the training and employment of taxonomists and such factors need to be overcome. Taxonomic and systematic discoveries, especially those involving cryptic species and unrecognized diversity, are rapidly increasing with the advent of modern genetics. Researchers must be cautious to argue from multiple lines of evidence when naming new species and be clear about the species concept they employ, as these have wide ranging impacts beyond taxonomy. Creating new ties between taxonomists and non-experts will be crucial in conservation of a diverse range of organisms in increasingly fragile landscapes.

 
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