Quantifying extinction risk and forecasting the number of impending Australian bird and mammal extinctions

Authors: Hayley M Geyle, John CZ Woinarski, G Barry Baker, Chris R Dickman, Guy Dutson, Diana O Fisher, Hugh Ford, Mark Holdsworth, Menna E Jones, Alex Kutt, Sarah Legge, Ian Leiper, Richard Loyn, Brett P Murphy, Peter Menkhorst, April E Reside, Euan G Ritchie, Finley E Roberts, Reid Tingley and Stephen T Garnett

Published in: Pacific Conservation Biology

Abstract

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 we seek to extend and complement those processes to focus more narrowly on the likelihood of extinction of the most imperilled Australian birds and mammals. We 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, we estimated the number of extinctions likely to occur in the next 20 years. The estimates of extinction risk derived from our 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, we estimate that another seven Australian mammals and 10 Australian birds will be extinct by 2038 unless management improves.

Geyle HM, Woinarski JCZ, Baker GB, Dickman CR, Dutson G, Fisher DO, Ford H, Holdsworth M, Jones ME, Kutt A, Legge S, Leiper I, Loyn R, Murphy BP, Menkhorst P, Reside AE, Ritchie EG, Roberts FE, Tingley R, Garrett ST (2018) Quantifying extinction risk and forecasting the number of impending Australian bird and mammal extinctions, Pacific Conservation Biology PDF DOI