Friday, April 24, 2009

Allee effect

French researches, using the internet, have demonstrated that conservation bodies ought to think very carefully about exploiting rare and endangered species as a ways and means of raising environmental awareness. Apparently, under the anthropogenic Allee effect, humans place a high value on rarity and so are willing to play high costs to exploit the last individuals. This effect is manifesting itself now with top-end ecotourism and the increase in rare and exotic 'pets'.
Using the internet, researches placed a series of slide shows of photographs free to view on-line and then monitored access and duration of viewings. They found that common species were viewed infrequently and rapidly, but that rare and endangered species experienced longer viewings - with individuals prepared to wait even longer for loading to see them. They then argue that labelling a species as rare or endangered promotes public perceptions to the extent that individuals will go out of their way to either 'see' or 'acquire' a species before it disappears - which inadvertently they will then be adding too.
Thus conservationists should be prudent when using rarity to promote conservation.

Angulo E, Courchamp F (2009) Rare Species Are Valued Big Time. PLoS ONE 4(4): e5215. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005215


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