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The first Red List for insect taxonomists in Europe reaches a decisive stage

November 9th, 2021
The first Red List for insect taxonomists in Europe reaches a decisive stage
Entomologist at work in the Hymenoptera collection, housed at the Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals, Polish Academy of Sciences in Cracow. Credit: Karolina Fok

For the past five months, the European Commission-funded project 'European Red List' of Taxonomists has been reaching out to insect taxonomists to invite them to register at the Red List of Taxonomists portal.

Behind the project are the organization uniting the most important and largest European natural science collections (CETAF), the world's authority on assessing the risk of extinction of organisms: the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the scientific publisher with a long history in the biodiversity and ecology fields Pensoft.

"It's never been as clear that the sustainability of our ecosystems and economies are tightly connected to how healthy our pollinators and other insects within the intricate web of life are. So, it is obvious that securing the constant flow of scientific knowledge shall be of utmost importance to everybody," say the project partners.

"At the end of the day, it's the experts who identify insects and investigate their abundance and diversity that are best equipped to inform the community—including the key decision-makers—about things like what native species are in urgent need of protection, which ones have recently started to diminish, and how to spot invasives well known for their harm on local biodiversity. The major problem, however, is that these experts are rapidly declining themselves."

Having filled in their details, such as country of residence and activity, institutional affiliation, seniority and insect group of interest, over 1,200  participants provided valuable data necessary to estimate the actual number, location and profile of the insect taxonomists based or working in Europe. The final report—to be released in early 2022—will also present past and future trends of expertise within the continent and across insect taxa. A comprehensive list of recommendations will shed light on where and what support is needed to prevent the 'extinction' of experts and their invaluable contributions to evidence-based conservation efforts.

In particular, the final recommendations are to highlight all key measures and tools expected to bridge the identified gaps at both national and pan-European level, including the use of relevant funding programs. The report will also include an estimate of the associated efforts and costs. 

The first Red List for insect taxonomists in Europe reaches a decisive stage
A photo taken during an university educational practice at lake Pisochne in 2014 (Shatsk, Ukraine). Credit: Bohdan Manko

In the meantime, a webinar taking place in January 2022 will bring together various specialists relevant to the field, including taxonomic experts, academics, CETAF members, and representatives of high-level organizations, such as the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), Convention on Biological Diversity, Global Taxonomy Initiative and the League of European Research Universities (LERU) to collect feedback and further input before the report and recommendations are made public.

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