CPop

Understanding Extinction

Errors in generation time could underestimate extinction risk

New paper from our Johanna StärkDalia, CondeFernando Colchero and co-authors in Journal of Applied Ecology

Authors analyze how errors resulting from assumptions about species’ generation time can distort assessments of extinction timelines. The challenge of accurately assessing risk timelines begins with a lack of data on endangered species. To bridge the gaps, scientists rely on assumptions regarding survival, reproduction, and generation time. Generation time, which measures the amount of time it takes a generation to renew itself, dramatically impacts how quickly a species can respond to environmental changes and varies greatly between species. Using data from 58 mammalian populations compiled by collaborators from the University of Lyon as well as data from computer simulations, the authors propose to use more accurate information and include population growth rates into the calculation of generation time that may significantly reduce errors regarding a species’ generation time. Researchers tested the influence of these errors on Red List assessments and found that the assumptions in generation time may give an overly optimistic assessment of species extinction timelines.