Conservation status

Pantheon, by default, delivers the conservation status scores for taxa as one of the widely held metrics of site value. It is useful to understand a little about the history and types of conservation concern status values so that the user can make better judgements based on the Pantheon outputs.

Pantheon delivers 3 main status categories:

  • GB Rarity
  • Threat of GB extinction
  • Policy or legislative listing

A single taxa can have one or more of these and many species often end up with a long list. The money spider Meioneta mollis is Nationally rare, Near Threatened, and is on the S41 list of Priority species.

In Great Britain rarity is assessed by number of ten kilometre squares (hectads) currently occupied. Nationally Rare and Nationally Scarce are the current rarity categories (detail is in the Pantheon glossary) but those really only hold for species which have been recently reviewed. Many species still retain their historic assessments  and are unassessed to current levels: they will be shown as Red Data Book 3 (RDB3), or Notable b, or in the Red Data Book: 2 Insects (1987) itself as category 1 Endangered. All these values output from Pantheon can be used, though those taxa with older style values may now have very different conservation concern status values. As a user of the data you should be aware of this. Thus the parasitic tachinid fly Gymnosoma nitens is shown as RDB1, but this is bracketed in Pantheon and shown as [RDB1], indicating that it is far more widespread now than when it was last reviewed (1991).

Threat, as exemplified by the IUCN categories, has changed over the years and as noted above the Red Data Book utilised earlier forms. Subsequent reviews assessed threat to varying levels of rigour, with the clearest assessment audits having taken place from 2010 onwards and since the Species Status reviews volumes were produced..

1975 saw the first British insect receive legal protection, and subsequent laws and policy instruments added more species, and will continue to do so. The Section 41 list of Priority species is one of the current policy instruments.

Pantheon currently sources its status values from the JNCC, which seek to keep track of the Species Status Review outputs, though there is sometimes a time lag in the process chain. The JNCC is the arbiter of what the status is, and status values appearing on other websites do not have the same formal recognition. A number of status “errors” are down to taxonomic complexity and status values following the “wrong” species. Pantheon does not curate the UK Species Inventory and so is not responsible for tracking the most recent changes.

When will all the species be assessed?

In reality, it is doubtful they ever will. It would be possible to assess rarity relatively easily (since it is based on a mapped hectad (10x10 km square) count but the assessment of threat is a greater undertaking and really only possible with well-recorded groups with a good run of data over time. Whilst the number of old status values will diminish over time as new reviews are completed, they are unlikely to completely disappear and so will remain in Pantheon outputs. It would be inappropriate to block transfer the remaining species to, for example, a Least Concern category because whilst that may be true for many of the “common” species, some of those species may be edging towards the Near Threatened category, or may be widespread but subject to rapid losses, and this would all be hidden if the process was followed without recourse to looking at the data and testing the threat criteria.

Since they assess completely different things, rarity and threat should not be conflated. As noted above, each species may have several accounts in the output so users need to be aware when collating and adding up the categories.