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Incorporating Climate and Ocean Change into Extinction Risk Assessments for 82 Coral Species

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Abstract

Many marine invertebrate species facing potential extinction have uncertain taxonomies and poorly known demographic and ecological traits. Uncertainties are compounded when potential extinction drivers are climate and ocean changes whose effects on even widespread and abundant species are only partially understood. The U.S. Endangered Species Act mandates conservation management decisions founded on the extinction risk to species based on the best available science at the time of consideration—requiring prompt action rather than awaiting better information. We developed an expert‐opinion threat‐based approach that entails a structured voting system to assess extinction risk from climate and ocean changes and other threats to 82 coral species for which population status and threat response information was limited. Such methods are urgently needed because constrained budgets and manpower will continue to hinder the availability of desired data for many potentially vulnerable marine species. Significant species‐specific information gaps and uncertainties precluded quantitative assessments of habitat loss or population declines and necessitated increased reliance on demographic characteristics and threat vulnerabilities at genus or family levels. Adapting some methods (e.g., a structured voting system) used during other assessments and developing some new approaches (e.g., integrated assessment of threats and demographic characteristics), we rated the importance of threats contributing to coral extinction risk and assessed those threats against population status and trend information to evaluate each species’ extinction risk over the 21st century. This qualitative assessment resulted in a ranking with an uncertainty range for each species according to their estimated likelihood of extinction. We offer guidance on approaches for future biological extinction risk assessments, especially in cases of data‐limited species likely to be affected by global‐scale threats.

Incorporación del Cambio Climático y Oceánico en Estudios de Riesgo de Extinción para 82 Especies de Coral
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Language: Spanish

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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