Correlates of extinction proneness in tropical angiosperms

  • Sodhi N
  • Koh L
  • Peh K
 et al. 
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Abstract

Rapid losses and degradation of natural habitats in the tropics are driving catastrophic declines and extinctions of native biotas, including angiosperms. Determining the ecological and life-history correlates of extinction proneness in tropical plant species may help reveal the mechanisms underlying their responses to habitat disturbance, and assist in the pre-emptive identification of species at risk from extinction. We determined the predictors of extinction proneness in 1884 locally extinct (n = 454) and extant (n = 1430) terrestrial angiosperms (belonging to 43 orders, 133 families, and 689 genera) in the tropical island nation of Singapore (699.4 km(2)), which has lost 99.6% of its primary lowland evergreen rainforest since 1819. A wide variety of traits such as geographical distribution, pollination system, sexual system, habit, habitat, height, fruit/seed dispersal mechanism, and capacity for vegetative re-sprouting were used in the analysis. Despite controlling for phylogeny (as approximated by family level classification), we found that only a small percentage of the variation in the extinction probability could be explained by these factors. Epiphytic, monoecious, and hermaphroditic species and those restricted to inland forests have higher probabilities of extinction. Species dependent on mammal pollinators also probably have higher extinction probabilities. More comparative studies that use species traits to identify extinction-prone plant species are needed to guide the enormous, but essential task of identifying species most in need of conservation action.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Conservation
  • Extinction risk
  • Generalized linear mixed-effects models
  • Life history
  • Phylogenetic control
  • Selectivity
  • Species traits
  • Tropical biotas
  • Vulnerability

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