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Analysing extinction risk in parrots using decision trees

Jones, Martin J. and Fielding, Alan H. and Sullivan, Matthew S. (2006) Analysing extinction risk in parrots using decision trees. Biodiversity and conservation, 15 (6). pp. 1993-2007. ISSN 1572-9710

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Abstract

Comparative analysis techniques have been successfully applied in a number of recent attempts to identify the species traits associated with a current threat of extinction although less often to predict which species may become threatened in the future. Although prediction of risk is obviously a priority, such analyses are undermined by the fact that there may be non-linear and non-additive relationships between the species traits used. A Decision Tree analysis can accommodate with such relationships and here it is used to explore factors affecting extinction risk in parrots. The results firstly verify that simple biological and biogeographical traits can separate threatened from non-threatened species. It is also possible to predict which species are likely to become threatened in the future. The utility of the method is not in testing evolutionary-based hypotheses to explain extinction risk, rather it is a simple and practical method of confirming and/or predicting levels of risk. For well known taxonomic groups it could be used to confirm current IUCN threat categories and identify which species should receive closest attention when the group is next reviewed. For poorly known groups it could be used to predict categories of threat for unclassified species from small groups of classified ones.

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