North American Crane Working Group


Date of this Version


Document Type



Haney, J. Christopher, and Mark E. Eiswerth. "The Plight of Cranes: a Case Study for Preserving Biodiversity.", In: Stahlecker D. W., ed. 1992. Proceedings of the Sixth North American Crane Workshop, Oct. 3-5, 1991, Regina, Sask. (Grand Island, NE.: North American Crane Working Group, 1992), 12-18.


Conference co-sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Service, Saskatchewan Parks and Renewable Resources Department, and the Whooping Crane Conservation Association, Canadian Council. Proceedings used by permission of the North American Crane Working Group.


Cranes provide an exemplary case for evaluating conservation policy because (1) they are a charismatic group with high public visibility, (2) as migratory vertebrates they provide an umbrella for the protection of aquatic habitats and a wider set of species, (3) they are a widely-distributed avian family, consequently protection efforts have favored international cooperation, (4) genetic and taxonomic relationships have been studied, and (5) populations of at least 7 crane species are threatened, endangered, or otherwise considered at direct risk. We use comparisons among the world's cranes to show how biogeographic, taxonomic, and genetic data bases can be linked for conservation decisions. We show that decisions typically faced by a conservation planner are themselves diverse (e.g., choosing species for captive propagation, or identifying priority habitats for maintaining taxonomic distinctiveness), thereby obviating the utility of any single, all-purpose measure of diversity. Conservation priorities are shown to change with successive informational input regarding phylogenetic relationships, extinction risks, and popUlation trends, and to differ greatly from priorities based on species richness alone.