Drivers of extinction risk in terrestrial vertebrates

Simon Ducatez*, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)
71 Downloads (Pure)


Rising rates of extinction create an urgent need to identify the mechanisms and drivers of endangerment. One critical question is whether major phylogenetic lineages are equally at risk to the same threats. We used the IUCN Red List classification to explore the effect of four major threatening processes (habitat alteration, invasive species, climate change and overexploitation) on 7,441 species in four terrestrial vertebrate classes. As expected, species rated as vulnerable to a higher number of threats were also at greater risk of extinction. However, this pattern differed strongly among classes. Notably, invasive species and climate change were strongly associated with increased risk of extinction in birds but not mammals. These large-scale differences might be artifacts of differing methodologies used by class specialists to classify species vulnerability; or might reflect biological differences. That ambiguity needs to be resolved, because it has strong implications for the assessment and amelioration of threatening processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-194
Number of pages9
JournalConservation Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Erratum can be found in Ducatez, S. and Shine, R. (2017), Erratum to “Drivers of extinction risk in terrestrial vertebrates”. CONSERVATION LETTERS, 10: 377-377.


  • amphibians
  • birds
  • endangerment
  • invasive species
  • IUCN Red List
  • mammals
  • reptiles


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