Considerations on extinct species of Brazilian flora

Thiago Serrano de Almeida Penedo, Miguel d'Ávila de Moraes, Rafael Augusto Xavier Borges, Daniel Maurenza, Diogo Marcilio Judice, Gustavo Martinelli


Extinction risk assessments are important tools for plant conservation. However, misinterpretations can lead
to negative consequences for survival of species. Inconsistent categorization as extinction, when the species
is still extant, constitutes a Romeo error, and annuls all and any mechanism of existing legal protection. But
precisely determining the extinction of a plant species is a challenging task, in that the plants can portray
characteristics that permit survival in a state of dormancy. To circumvent this problem, specialists frequently
adopt precaution and a comprehensive approach that consider biological, ecological, and geographical parameters
as inputs for the assessments. It is also important to include explicit logic arguments, as building-blocks
of the rational that will support the assessment. Transparent interpretation of the available data can minimize
inconsistent categorization. In Brazil, 23% of the plant species assessed as Extinct or Extinct in the Wild,
comprise Romeo errors. The other 77% are cases of Data Deficient. Countries that succeeded in minimizing
problems arising from this error developed specific legislation to protect threatened species, including
mechanisms to annul an erroneous categorizations. Anyhow, the use of categories Extinct (EX) and Extinct
in the Wild (EW) according to IUCN definitions should be avoided when no effort has been made to provide
evidence of extinction in the wild.
Key words: Romeo error, legal protection; risk assessments.


Romeo error, extinct species; legal protection; risk assessments

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