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Durham University

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Publication details

Howard, C., Flather, C.H. & Stephens, P.A. (2019). What drives at-risk species richness? Environmental factors are more influential than anthropogenic factors or biological traits. Conservation Letters 12(2): e12624.

Author(s) from Durham


Species at risk of extinction are not uniformly distributed in space. Concentrations of threatened species may occur where threatening processes are intense, in refuges from those processes, or in areas of high species diversity. However, there have been few attempts to identify the processes that explain the distribution of at‐risk species. Here, we identified the relative importance of biological traits, environmental factors, and anthropogenic stressors in driving the spatial patterns of both total and at‐risk species richness of North American mammals and birds. Environmental factors are the predominant drivers of both total and at‐risk species richness. Strikingly, the directions of variable relationships differ substantially between models of total and at‐risk species richness. Understanding how environmental gradients differentially drive variation in total and at‐risk species richness can inform conservation action. Moreover, our approach can predict shifts in at‐risk species concentrations in response to projected environmental change and anthropogenic stressors.