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Trends Ecol Evol. 2009 Oct;24(10):564-71. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2009.04.011. Epub 2009 Aug 6.

Extinction debt: a challenge for biodiversity conservation.

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Finnish Environment Institute, Research Programme for Biodiversity, P.O. Box 140, FI-00251 Helsinki, Finland.


Local extinction of species can occur with a substantial delay following habitat loss or degradation. Accumulating evidence suggests that such extinction debts pose a significant but often unrecognized challenge for biodiversity conservation across a wide range of taxa and ecosystems. Species with long generation times and populations near their extinction threshold are most likely to have an extinction debt. However, as long as a species that is predicted to become extinct still persists, there is time for conservation measures such as habitat restoration and landscape management. Standardized long-term monitoring, more high-quality empirical studies on different taxa and ecosystems and further development of analytical methods will help to better quantify extinction debt and protect biodiversity.

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