|Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)|
About the Alliance for Zero Extinction
The following are some questions that people have raised regarding the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) and how it relates to other ongoing conservation efforts.
- What is AZE? Answer
- Who leads AZE? Answer
- How many members are there in AZE and from how many countries? Answer
- How was the AZE data gathered? Answer
- What are the AZE criteria for selecting sites? Answer
- How will AZE halt extinctions? Answer
- Why does AZE not cover rare species like the Giant Panda? Answer
- Can we really expect to conserve species already reduced to such low populations and confined to such small habitats? Answer
- What defines a species and why are rare species important? Answer
- Why does it matter if species go extinct? Answer
- How can people support AZE conservation? Answer
- What about species that have not yet been included in AZE? Answer
- Aren't all of these species currently surviving with no conservation help? Answer
- Populations of rare species are being rediscovered all the time. How do you know for sure that these are the last remaining sites and how will subsequent discovery of new populations affect the AZE designations? Answer
- Many other conservation priority-setting tools exist – how is AZE different? Answer
1. What is AZE?
The Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) is a joint initiative of 76 biodiversity conservation organizations around the world, which aims to prevent extinctions by identifying and safeguarding key sites where species are in imminent danger of disappearing. The goal of the Alliance is to create a frontline of defense against extinction by eliminating threats and restoring habitat to allow species populations to rebound.
2. Who leads AZE?
AZE is not led by any one group. It is a true alliance and all members can contribute to the level they desire and are able. All members also work independently on their own priorities outside of AZE. Representatives from member organizations can volunteer to be on various AZE committees as they are formed.
3. How many members are there in AZE and from how many countries?
There are currently 76 members from 31 countries, but this number is constantly rising.
4. How were the AZE data gathered?
The data gathering process was performed originally in 2005 and again in 2010 with input from regional experts, as well as experts in the six AZE taxa (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, conifers, and corals) from around the world. The data were verified using existing databases such as the IUCN Red List, BirdLife International's global database, Global Amphibian Assessment, World Database on Protected Areas, and Key Biodiversity Areas. It was also peer-reviewed by local, national, and international experts.
5. What are the AZE criteria for selecting sites?
AZE uses the following criteria to identify priority sites: 1. Endangerment: An AZE site must contain at least one Endangered (EN) or Critically Endangered (CR) species, as listed by the IUCN Red List. 2. Irreplaceability: An AZE site should only be designated if it is the sole area where an EN or CR species occurs, or contains the overwhelmingly significant known resident population of the EN or CR species, or contains the overwhelmingly significant known population for one life history segment (e.g., breeding or wintering) of the EN or CR species. 3. Discreteness: The area must have a definable boundary within which the character of habitats, biological communities, and/or management issues have more in common with each other than they do with those in adjacent areas.
6. How will AZE halt extinctions?
Habitat protection is the key. We have identified the last remaining sites for the world's most highly threatened species, 93% of which are threatened primarily by habitat destruction. If a species' last habitat is lost, then it will become extinct in the wild, and the most we will be able to achieve is to maintain only a captive population for the rest of time. Habitat protection also benefits the planet as a whole by helping to provide fresh clean water and capturing carbon to help slow global warming. We are also still in the process of identifying and cataloging Earth's species. By protecting AZE sites and species we will likely protect many other important species that occupy these habitats.
7. Why does AZE not cover rare species like the Giant Panda?
The Giant Panda, though an endangered species, occurs in six separate populations in the wild. Many AZE member organizations are engaged in the conservation of high priority species with broader distributions. AZE is about identifying and protecting the single remaining refuges for species that will become extinct if their last habitat is destroyed.
8. an we really expect to conserve species already reduced to such low populations and confined to such small habitats?
It is true that, for long-term persistence, some species will require larger habitats and population sizes than those currently found in AZE sites. However, population viability depends on a complex set of factors, and small populations of many species can persist and recover, as evidenced by the Seychelles Magpie-Robin, Mauritius Kestrel, Echo Parakeet, Seychelles Warbler, Laysan Teal, and Short-tailed Albatross, some of which were at one time reduced to double- or single-digit global populations. Furthermore, AZE is equally important for species that will ultimately require larger habitats. The first conservation step for these species is to halt their population decline by preserving their remaining habitat. Recovery into restored habitats can only follow over the longer-term if the species has avoided extinction in the meantime.
9. What defines a species and why are rare species important?
There are several different schools of thought regarding how a "species" should be defined, but all generally refer to species as distinctly recognizable life-forms that can be separated from each other due to obvious physical differences, and generally do not interbreed with other species. Earth's species are the building blocks of its ecosystems, and all Earth's ecosystems taken together comprise our total biodiversity. AZE members believe that the human race should act as the custodian of this biodiversity for future generations. Protecting AZE sites and species is a next essential step in this custodianship. Rare species are important for a number of reasons: cultural, economic, and biological (e.g., as pollinators, predators, or prey). Species can either be recently descended from similar "parent" species, or be the last remnants of ancient genetic lineages, separated widely from other life-forms. They may also themselves become parent species of future diverse lineages. For example, "Darwin's" finches now number some fourteen species, but were likely descended from a single common ancestor. Had that ancestor (which would certainly have qualified as an AZE species at the time) become extinct prior to its descendant's diversification, human understanding of evolutionary principles may have been set back decades, and the fourteen current species would not have had the chance to evolve.
10. Why does it matter if species go extinct?
Earth would be a much less interesting place without its full complement of species, but there are also significant economic and cultural reasons for prioritizing species conservation. There are numerous examples in both categories, but the American Bald Eagle is a good example of a cultural icon that was almost lost from much of its range due to pesticide poisoning. Wildlife viewing generates enormous economic benefits worldwide. For example, in the USA $34 billion per year (USFWS, 2007) alone was spent on nature-related products and services. Species provide a vast array of ecological services, including pest control, pollination, medicine, ocean health, etc that equates to enormous financial benefits.
11. How can people support AZE conservation?
Click here for a full list of member groups. Most members have web sites that enable donations to be made over the internet.
12. What about species that have not yet been included in AZE?
AZE members will continue to identify sites for species and groups of species that have not yet been globally assessed, and include them in the AZE site list. For example, the national Alliances for Zero Extinction in Mexico and Brazil have included sites for fishes in their analyses of their nation’s AZE sites. Information on certain taxa, such as fishes and plants, are improving, and we hope to include these groups as information becomes available.
13. Aren't all of these species currently benefiting from conservation efforts outside of AZE?
Almost all of the sites selected fit to some degree into existing conservation priorities, but many receive no direct, special focus. Some AZE sites are already well protected through refuge or park status, and their species (such as the Whooping Crane) are the focus of direct conservation action. Nearly two-thirds of the sites are unprotected, however, and are highly threatened by development, invasive species, hunting, or other human-related pressures. It is only a matter of time before they disappear if no additional action is taken.
14.Populations of rare species are being rediscovered all the time. How do you know for sure that these are the last remaining sites and how will subsequent discovery of new populations affect the AZE designations?
The list of AZE sites and species represents the current body of global knowledge on Endangered and Critically Endangered species whose global populations are reduced to just one primary site. This body of knowledge is constantly being added to, and the list of AZE designations will be updated accordingly. In some cases, knowledge of a species is considerable, and we can say with a high degree of certainty that these sites represent the last population, in other cases less is known, and there is more chance that other populations will be found. we must take the precautionary principle – just because we may find an additional site one day, doesn’t mean that we will, and we must protect sites based on the information we have.
15. Many other conservation priority-setting tools exist – how is AZE different?
There are a number of tools that have been developed to prioritize conservation efforts. AZE can be described as the top of the endangerment pyramid – the species that are most threatened due to their extremely small global ranges and small populations. Many leading conservation organizations have their own ways of prioritizing where to work, but include AZE as an essential component. For example, Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) and Hotspots, developed by Conservation International and Important Bird Areas (IBAs) overlap extensively with AZE sites.For instance, 264 or 44% of all AZE sites are also IBAs according to BirdLife International. The diagram below (courtesy of BirdLife International) illustrates how AZE sites form subsets of IBAs and KBAs (Key Biodiversity Areas).