London, June 22 : Experts are aiming to standardize terms in conservation, with using common terms for the problems and tools in the field, so the discipline can become truly scientific and analyze ecological threats better than before.
According to a report in Nature News, the new system is being put into practice at every level, from the global 'Red List' of endangered species to bird conservationists working in remote regions such as the highlands of Kenya.
Nick Salafsky, one of those urging for the change, argues that all applied science relies on people using the same names for the same phenomena.
"If every physician has his own name for diseases and cures, you have no way of having a science of medicine. We're facing the same problem in conservation - we need to standardize," he said.
Salafsky began working on a standard classification of conservation threats and actions as a member of the Conservation Measures Partnership (CMP), a consortium of conservation non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
They then discovered that the World Conservation Union (IUCN) was working on a similar project, and the two projects pooled their efforts.
The final, unified system has six dimensions, which together can be used to describe and classify any conservation project.
These are: the project's aim (such as protecting a site, or training conservation managers); the people and groups implementing it; the symptoms of damage (such as deforestation); their immediate and ultimate causes (for example, logging and demand for wood, respectively); and the actions to be taken (such as ecotourism or captive breeding).
The team tested the system on a list of 1,191 endangered bird species gathered by BirdLife International, an umbrella body for bird conservation groups that is based in Cambridge, UK.
According to Stuart Butchart, the coordinator of BirdLife's Global Species Programme, "The new system pinpoints agriculture and unsustainable exploitation as those drivers. It's a much more logical way of analysing threats."
BirdLife is applying the system to its monitoring of 10,000 important bird areas around the world.
The scheme has also been adopted by the Alliance for Zero Extinction, another group of NGOs that aims to identify and preserve endangered species' last strongholds. It will also be applied to the more than 40,000 species on the 2008 IUCN Red List.
"There hasn't been a unified system for thinking about threats," said Andrew Balmford, a conservation biologist at the University of Cambridge. "Unified systems are very helpful for communication, identifying best practice, and analysing trends," he added.