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Conserv Biol. 2010 Apr;24(2):511-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2009.01341.x. Epub 2009 Oct 16.

Consistent ecological selectivity through time in Pacific Island avian extinctions.

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Division of Birds, MRC-116, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, P.O. Box 37012, Washington, D.C. 20013-7012, USA.


Understanding the ecological mechanisms that lead to extinction is a central goal of conservation. Can understanding ancient avian extinctions help to predict extinction risk in modern birds? I used classification trees trained on both paleoecological and historical data from islands across the Pacific to determine the ecological traits associated with extinction risk. Intrinsic traits, including endemism, large body size, and certain feeding guilds, were tightly linked with avian extinction over the past 3500 years. Species ecology and phylogeny were better predictors of extinction risk through time than extrinsic or abiotic factors. Although human impacts on birds and their habitats have changed over time, modern endangered birds share many of the same ecological characteristics as victims of previous extinction waves. My use of detailed predictions of extinction risk to identify species potentially in need of conservation attention demonstrates the utility of paleoecological knowledge for modern conservation biology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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