Public Release: 

Lack of data increases risk to species' survival

University of Kent


IMAGE: This image shows a new species discovered in Madagascar. view more

Credit: Dr Dave Roberts

Incomplete information is leaving many endangered species off conservation priorities.

The majority of species are poorly known, many only from a handful of museum specimens. This makes determining the conservation status of these species difficult, with many ending up being assigned as Data Deficient under the IUCN Red List. This 'Data Deficient' labelling then prevents them from appearing on the Red List as endangered or at risk and so prevents them from receiving the conservation attention they urgently require.

Dr David Roberts of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), in the School of Anthropology and Conservation at the University of Kent, and Dr Lucas Joppa of Microsoft Research and an honorary researcher at DICE, studied the herbarium specimens of orchids from Madagascar; famed for Darwin's comet orchid. Their research found that species described more recently have smaller ranges and occupancies, fewer specimens and greater perceived extinction risk.

In their paper published in the journal Diversity and Distribution, the authors found that as more specimens were collected and new locations found, the known distribution of a species increases rapidly, and that this increase in known distribution was faster than collection at random. This suggests newly discovered species and yet to be discovered species are rare and likely to be at risk of extinction.


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Notes to editors

Journal article here -

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species (also known as the IUCN Red List or Red Data List), founded in 1964, is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. The IUCN is the world's main authority on the conservation status of species

Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked: third for overall student satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey; 16th in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world.

The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (

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