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Decision making tools for evaluating candidate species for de-extinction


Von Hagen, R. Lynn
Prakash, Vasavi
Chalkowski, Kayleigh
Gitzen, Robert
Fantle-Lepczyk, Jean
Hartman, Patricia
Lepczyk, Chris


As genetic editing technologies develop and the possibility of species resurrection becomes more likely, de-extinction is being considered as a tool to restore extinct species and stem biodiversity loss. While promising, de-extinction poses a set of tradeoffs, including the potential restoration of ecosystem function and services versus the lost opportunity cost for other conservation priorities. Given such tradeoffs what is needed is a decision tool to evaluate whether an individual species is a viable candidate for de-extinction. To address this need, we developed a framework for evaluating species for de-extinction based on the principles of structured decision-making. First, we established four fundamental objectives which evaluate the major concerns when assessing a species for de-extinction: biological and ecological processes, socioeconomic conditions, political or legal processes, and cultural and ethical considerations. For each objective we developed evaluation criteria with Likert-type scales ranging from -2 (unfavorable) to +2 (favorable). The scores from each category can be weighted based on their overall importance to the local decision-making context and relevant impacts. The overall score provides insight into the many considerations for using de-extinction as a conservation decision alternative, which we illustrate with several example species evaluations. Overall, our tool lays the groundwork for a transparent and systematic evaluation of candidate species for de-extinction.