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Ecological correlates of extinction risk in Chinese birds

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China is one of the countries with the richest bird biodiversity in the world. Among the 1372 Chinese birds, 146 species are considered threatened and three species are regionally extinct according to the officially released China Biodiversity Red List in 2015. Here, we conducted the first extensive analysis to systematically investigate the patterns and processes of extinction and threat in Chinese birds. We addressed the following four questions. First, is extinction risk randomly distributed among avian families in Chinese birds? Second, which families contain more threatened species than would be expected by chance? Third, which species traits are important in determining the extinction risk in Chinese birds using a multivariate phylogenetic comparative approach? Finally, is the form of the relationship between traits additive or nonadditive (synergistic)? We found that the extinction risk of Chinese birds was not randomly distributed among taxonomic families. The families that contained significantly more threatened species than expected were the hornbills, cranes, pittas, pheasants and hawks and eagles. We obtained eleven species traits that are commonly hypothesized to influence extinction risk from the literature: body size, clutch size, trophic level, mobility, habitat specificity, geographical range size, nest type, nest site, flocking tendency, migrant status and hunting vulnerability. After phylogenetic correction, model selection based on Akaike's information criterion identified the synergistic interaction between body size and hunting vulnerability as the single best correlate of extinction risk in Chinese birds. Our results suggest that, in order to be effective, priority management efforts should be given both to certain extinction‐prone families, particularly the hornbills, pelicans, cranes, pittas, pheasants and hawks and eagles, and to bird species with large body size and high hunting vulnerability.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2018

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