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Which intrinsic traits predict vulnerability to extinction depends on the actual threatening processes

Gonzalez-Suarez, M., Gómez, A. and Revilla, E. (2013) Which intrinsic traits predict vulnerability to extinction depends on the actual threatening processes. Ecosphere, 4 (6). 76. ISSN 2150-8925

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1890/ES12-00380.1

Abstract/Summary

Understanding what makes some species more vulnerable to extinction than others is an important challenge for conservation. Many comparative analyses have addressed this issue exploring how intrinsic and extrinsic traits associate with general estimates of vulnerability. However, these general estimates do not consider the actual threats that drive species to extinction and hence, are more difficult to translate into effective management. We provide an updated description of the types and spatial distribution of threats that affect mammals globally using data from the IUCN for 5941 species of mammals. Using these data we explore the links between intrinsic species traits and specific threats in order to identify key intrinsic features associated with particular drivers of extinction. We find that families formed by small-size habitat specialists are more likely to be threatened by habitat-modifying processes; whereas, families formed by larger mammals with small litter sizes are more likely to be threatened by processes that directly affect survival. These results highlight the importance of considering the actual threatening process in comparative studies. We also discuss the need to standardize and rank threat importance in global assessments such as the IUCN Red List to improve our ability to understand what makes some species more vulnerable to extinction than others.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:51704
Publisher:Ecological Society of America

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