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

Taxonomy and International Agreements

The importance of taxonomy is recognized by the Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) Global Taxonomy Initiative program. Inadequate taxonomic information is recognized as an obstacle to making informed management decisions in conservation, sustainable use of resources, and availability of genetic resources (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity 2008). The legally binding CBD was signed by 193 governments in 1992–1993 at the UN Conference for Environment and Development. Article 7 (identification and monitoring), Article 12 (research and training), and Article 17 (public awareness and education) of the CBD directly address the need for taxonomic research to be conducted and used for conservation. Furthermore, the strategy plan for 2011 to 2020 specifically referenced the need to “improve the status of biodiversity and by safeguarding ecosystems, species, and genetic diversity” (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity 2012). The CBD indicates a willingness of governments to recognize the importance of taxonomy in resolving environmental challenges.

The importance of taxonomy in protecting species is most immediately visible under the Convention for International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) agreement. With 179 Parties having now joined the Convention, to which they agree to voluntarily adhere, CITES provides a rank system with varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 plant and animal species. Under CITES, all Acerodon and Pteropus species, or flying foxes, are listed as Appendix I or II. Appendix I species are deemed as threatened by extinction and all international trade is prohibited except for non-commercial purposes (e.g., scientific research). Appendix II affords protection to species that are not currently threatened, but may become threatened without controlled trade. Appendix II also protects similar-looking species in order to discourage illegal wildlife trafficking. All members of Acerodon and Pteropus are listed at both the genus and species level because many species have very restricted ranges and some are endangered, but species identification—especially by non-experts—is extremely difficult. The only nonpteropodid currently listed by CITES is the Uruguay population of the whitelined broad-nosed bat (Platyrrhinus lineatus), which is listed under Appendix III. Appendix III species are protected within a signatory country, but that signatory country has indicated it requires extended cooperation from other countries to prevent exploitation.

The importance of taxonomy in international agreements is also evident in the Convention on Migratory Species' (CMS) EUROBATS Agreement, which originally recognized 37 species, but now includes all 52 bat species (both migratory and non-migratory) in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. EUROBATS sets legal protection standards and develops and promotes management and conservation strategies across international borders, with 35 of 63 states within the targeted range as signatories. Revisions to the number of species listed, with an increase of 7 new species since 1995, are due to continuing taxonomic work in the region (CMS 2013).

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