John Fellowes, Carsten Bruehl, Martin Pfeiffer, Himender Bharti
The IUCN (World Conservation Union) Mission is “to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.” In 2007 Carsten Bruehl was invited by Michael Samways, of the Invertebrate Conservation Subcommittee of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC), to establish an Ant Specialist Group (ASG). Though reporting to SSC it would also have relevance to various other IUCN commissions, including the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), the Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM), the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP) and the Commission on Education and Communication (CEC). An Ant Specialist Group could support the IUCN mission through various targeted actions:
· strengthening and facilitating ant taxonomy and identification as a basis for conservation of species and ecosystems;
· elucidating geographical distributions of ants, highlighting centres of radiation and refugia;
· elucidating environmental influences (natural and anthropogenic) on ant community composition;
· improving assessment of ecosystem distinctiveness, integrity, variability and vulnerability based on the ant community;
· highlighting the main threats to ant biodiversity, and the regions, sites, ecosystems and taxa at greatest risk (Red Listing);
· contributing to understanding rates of global biodiversity loss (e.g. through the Sampled Red List Index);
· unravelling the roles and significance (ecological and economic) of ants in the health, maintenance and recovery of natural and managed ecosystems;
· understanding the impacts (ecological and economic) and threats from non-native ant species to biodiversity;
· promoting understanding of the ecological, economic and cultural importance of ants, and of declining ant diversity;
· improving the ability to manipulate the ant community for enhanced productivity and resilience of managed ecosystems;
· encouraging sound scientific investigation on Asian ants; and
· advocacy for scientifically-sound policy related to ants.
The ASG can draw on and develop ideas formulated for the proposed ANeT Action Plan, as well as other leading concepts and initiatives from global myrmecology. It can also feed into major ecosystem conservation initiatives in Asia and elsewhere, such as the Heart of Borneo initiative. These varied actions will need to be undertaken by a large number of professional and amateur myrmecologists; the Ant Specialist Group will need to find creative ways to instigate, guide, support and utilise such work in the interests of biodiversity conservation. We anticipate the Group will benefit all concerned with ants and their conservation; in turn, its success will depend upon the dedication of its members and supporters in ANeT and elsewhere.