Converting endangered species categories to probabilities of extinction for phylogenetic conservation prioritization

PLoS One. 2008;3(11):e3700. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003700. Epub 2008 Nov 11.


Background: Categories of imperilment like the global IUCN Red List have been transformed to probabilities of extinction and used to rank species by the amount of imperiled evolutionary history they represent (e.g. by the Edge of Existence programme). We investigate the stability of such lists when ranks are converted to probabilities of extinction under different scenarios.

Methodology and principal findings: Using a simple example and computer simulation, we show that preserving the categories when converting such list designations to probabilities of extinction does not guarantee the stability of the resulting lists.

Significance: Care must be taken when choosing a suitable transformation, especially if conservation dollars are allocated to species in a ranked fashion. We advocate routine sensitivity analyses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Extinction, Biological*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Probability
  • Species Specificity
  • Trees / physiology