Setting conservation priorities for Australian freshwater turtles
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The Australian freshwater turtle fauna appears to comprise a series of relictual lineages, each of considerable antiquity, possibly stemming from times when climates were moister. Half the extant genera are monotypic and two species, Carettochelys insculpta and Pseudemydura umbrina, are distinctive at higher taxonomic levels. In this paper, the conservation priorities of several species of concern are assessed against criteria of rarity, distinctiveness, intrinsic vulnerability to population decline, and the level of threat currently faced. In many cases, far too little is known for an unqualified assessment, not only in terms of conservation biology, but indeed at the level of basic alpha taxonomy, which has led to a serious impediment to action on the conservation front. In this context, priorities for research need to focus on both the tactical research needed to support management intervention and on the strategic research needed to bring knowledge of undescribed and recently described forms to a level at which appropriate assessment of their conservation status can be made. Agencies concerned with the conservation of these animals should consider dispensing with normal conventions and include undescribed but well-recognized species in their formal strategies and management plans.