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Impact of alternative metrics on estimates of extent of occurrence for extinction risk assessment

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In International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List assessments, extent of occurrence (EOO) is a key measure of extinction risk. However, the way assessors estimate EOO from maps of species’ distributions is inconsistent among assessments of different species and among major taxonomic groups. Assessors often estimate EOO from the area of mapped distribution, but these maps often exclude areas that are not habitat in idiosyncratic ways and are not created at the same spatial resolutions. We assessed the impact on extinction risk categories of applying different methods (minimum convex polygon, alpha hull) for estimating EOO for 21,763 species of mammals, birds, and amphibians. Overall, the percentage of threatened species requiring down listing to a lower category of threat (taking into account other Red List criteria under which they qualified) spanned 11–13% for all species combined (14–15% for mammals, 7–8% for birds, and 12–15% for amphibians). These down listings resulted from larger estimates of EOO and depended on the EOO calculation method. Using birds as an example, we found that 14% of threatened and near threatened species could require down listing based on the minimum convex polygon (MCP) approach, an approach that is now recommended by IUCN. Other metrics (such as alpha hull) had marginally smaller impacts. Our results suggest that uniformly applying the MCP approach may lead to a one‐time down listing of hundreds of species but ultimately ensure consistency across assessments and realign the calculation of EOO with the theoretical basis on which the metric was founded.
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Keywords: IUCN Red List; Lista Roja UICN; amenazado; distribution maps; mapas de distribución; threatened

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2016

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