Historical drivers of extinction risk: using past evidence to direct future monitoring

Di Marco, M., Collen, B., Rondinini, C., & Mace, G. M. (2015). Historical drivers of extinction risk: using past evidence to direct future monitoring. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 282, 20150928.


Global commitments to halt biodiversity decline mean that it is essential to monitor species’ extinction risk. However, the work required to assess extinction risk is intensive. We demonstrate an alternative approach to monitoring extinction risk, based on the response of species to external conditions. Using retrospective International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List assessments, we classify transitions in the extinction risk of 497 mammalian carnivores and ungulates between 1975 and 2013. Species that moved to lower Red List categories, or remained Least Concern, were classified as ‘lower risk’; species that stayed in a threatened category, or moved to a higher category of risk, were classified as ‘higher risk’. Twenty-four predictor variables were used to predict transitions, including intrinsic traits (species biology) and external conditions (human pressure, distribution state and conservation interventions). The model correctly classified up to 90% of all transitions and revealed complex interactions between variables, such as protected areas (PAs) versus human impact. The most important predictors were: past extinction risk, PA extent, geographical range size, body size, taxonomic family and human impact. Our results suggest that monitoring a targeted set of metrics would efficiently identify species facing a higher risk, and could guide the allocation of resources between monitoring species’ extinction risk and monitoring external conditions.