Estimating co-extinction threats in terrestrial ecosystems

Doherty, Seamus, Saltré, Frédérik, Llewelyn, John, Strona, Giovanni, Williams, Stephen E., and Bradshaw, Corey J.A. (2023) Estimating co-extinction threats in terrestrial ecosystems. Global Change Biology, 29 (18). pp. 5122-5138.

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The biosphere is changing rapidly due to human endeavour. Because ecological communities underlie networks of interacting species, changes that directly affect some species can have indirect effects on others. Accurate tools to predict these direct and indirect effects are therefore required to guide conservation strategies. However, most extinction-risk studies only consider the direct effects of global change—such as predicting which species will breach their thermal limits under different warming scenarios—with predictions of trophic cascades and co-extinction risks remaining mostly speculative. To predict the potential indirect effects of primary extinctions, data describing community interactions and network modelling can estimate how extinctions cascade through communities. While theoretical studies have demonstrated the usefulness of models in predicting how communities react to threats like climate change, few have applied such methods to real-world communities. This gap partly reflects challenges in constructing trophic network models of real-world food webs, highlighting the need to develop approaches for quantifying co-extinction risk more accurately. We propose a framework for constructing ecological network models representing real-world food webs in terrestrial ecosystems and subjecting these models to co-extinction scenarios triggered by probable future environmental perturbations. Adopting our framework will improve estimates of how environmental perturbations affect whole ecological communities. Identifying species at risk of co-extinction (or those that might trigger co-extinctions) will also guide conservation interventions aiming to reduce the probability of co-extinction cascades and additional species losses.

Item ID: 79549
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1354-1013
Keywords: climate change, co-extinctions, conservation, ecological network models, terrestrial ecosystems, trophic cascades
Copyright Information: © 2023 The Authors. Global Change Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Funders: Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CE170100015)
Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2024 03:40
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410103 Human impacts of climate change and human adaptation @ 100%
SEO Codes: 19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1901 Adaptation to climate change > 190101 Climate change adaptation measures (excl. ecosystem) @ 100%
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