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Carnivore extinction risk determined more by biology than human population density, says study

ive in the long term than postdecline attempts to rescue them from the brink of extinction," they conclude.

They suggest pre-emptive action including the establishment of population monitoring programs, or listing species under national species protection laws on the basis of potential future susceptibility.

"We need to keep an eye on species before they start declining to extinction," said Dr Cardillo. "What we think is safe now may soon go through a rapid decline. We shouldn't be too confident about the species around us now."

"This is a preliminary study, the first to examine a global level of extinction risk at the species level and at the same time consider biology's intrinsic influence. Now we intend to extend our methods to all 4,500 terrestrial mammals, to see if there are general predictors of extinction risk and that these rules apply between orders of animals."

In the PLoS study, the researchers took all 280 of the well-characterised carnivore species and assessed human impact on each of them using the human population density within their geographical distribution. This was tested together with a range of biological traits, to determine the most important predictors of extinction risk status, within a comparative statistical model.

As a measure of extinction risk status they took each species' position on the IUCN-World Conservation Union Red List which rates how likely a species is to become extinct, ranked in six categories from 'Least Concern' to 'Critically Endangered'.

The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, Conservation International's Center for Applied Biodiversity Science and the National Science Foundation.


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15-Jul-2004


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