Published on Sat Sep 19 2020

Diversity reduces extinction risk at global scales

Weeks, B. C., Naeem, S., Lasky, J., Tobias, J.

Increase in biodiversity often leads to greater, and less variable, levels of ecosystem functioning. Whether species are less likely to go extinct in more diverse systems is unclear. We find that more diverse assemblages have lower mean IUCN threat status.

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Abstract

Increases in biodiversity often lead to greater, and less variable, levels of ecosystem functioning. However, whether species are therefore less likely to go extinct in more diverse systems is unclear. We use comprehensive estimates of avian taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity to characterize the global relationship between multiple dimensions of diversity and extinction risk in birds. We find that more diverse assemblages have lower mean IUCN threat status despite being composed of species with attributes that make them more vulnerable to extinction, such as large body size or small range size. Our analyses also reveal that this reduction of current threat status associated with greater diversity far outweighs the increased risk associated with the accumulation of extinction-prone species in more diverse assemblages. These results suggest that species conservation targets can best be achieved by maintaining high levels of overall biodiversity in natural ecosystems.