Extinction Risks for Australian Birds and Mammals

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This week’s featured research article was recently published in Pacific Conservation Biology and quantifies extinction risk and forecasts the number of impending Australian bird and mammal extinctions. The researchers state that a critical step towards reducing the incidence of extinction is to identify and rank the species at highest risk, while implementing protective measures to reduce the risk of extinction to such species. Existing global processes provide a graded categorisation of extinction risk. Here, the researchers seek to extend and complement those processes to focus more narrowly on the likelihood of extinction of the most imperilled Australian birds and mammals. They considered an extension of existing IUCN and NatureServe criteria, and used expert elicitation to rank the extinction risk to the most imperilled species, assuming current management. On the basis of these assessments, and using two additional approaches, they estimated the number of extinctions likely to occur in the next 20 years. The estimates of extinction risk derived from the tighter IUCN categorisations, NatureServe assessments and expert elicitation were poorly correlated, with little agreement among methods for which species were most in danger – highlighting the importance of integrating multiple approaches when considering extinction risk. Mapped distributions of the 20 most imperilled birds reveal that most are endemic to islands or occur in southern Australia. The 20 most imperilled mammals occur mostly in northern and central Australia. While there were some differences in the forecasted number of extinctions in the next 20 years among methods, all three approaches predict further species loss. Overall, the researchers estimate that another seven Australian mammals and 10 Australian birds will be extinct by 2038 unless management improves. The article can be downloaded here (or email jennie.fluin@sa.gov.au for a copy).