Trait synergisms and the rarity, extirpation, and extinction risk of desert fishes

J.D. Olden, LeRoy POFF, K.R. Bestgen

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    107 Citations (Scopus)


    Understanding the causes and consequences of species extinctions is a central goal in ecology. Faced with the difficult task of identifying those species with the greatest need for conservation, ecologists have turned to using predictive suites of ecological and life-history traits to provide reasonable estimates of species extinction risk. Previous studies have linked individual traits to extinction risk, yet the nonadditive contribution of multiple traits to the entire extinction process, from species rarity to local extirpation to global extinction, has not been examined. This study asks whether trait synergisms predispose native fishes of the Lower Colorado River Basin (USA) to risk of extinction through their effects on rarity and local extirpation and their vulnerability to different sources of threat. Fish species with “slow” life histories (e.g., large body size, long life, and delayed maturity), minimal parental care to offspring, and specialized feeding behaviors are associated with smaller geographic distribution, greater frequency of local extirpation, and higher perceived extinction risk than that expected by simple additive effects of traits in combination. This supports the notion that trait synergisms increase the susceptibility of native fishes to multiple stages of the extinction process, thus making them prone to the multiple jeopardies resulting from a combination of fewer individuals, narrow environmental tolerances, and long recovery times following environmental change. Given that particular traits, some acting in concert, may differentially predispose native fishes to rarity, extirpation, and extinction, we suggest that management efforts in the Lower Colorado River Basin should be congruent with the life-history requirements of multiple species over large spatial and temporal scales.
    Original languageUndefined
    Pages (from-to)847-856
    Number of pages10
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

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