Human activities threaten thousands of species with extinction. However, it remains difficult to predict extinction risk for many vulnerable species. Species characteristics and phylogenetic relationships can help predict responses to global change and likelihood of extinction. Historical data on species losses can allow for testing phylogenetic patterns in extinctions and identifying traits that influence species vulnerability to local extinction. We use historical botanical data from Kalamazoo County, Michigan, to examine whether species characteristics or phylogenetic relatedness explain species loss at the county level. Prairie species, species at the edge of their native range, regionally rare species, and habitat specialists were most likely to become locally extinct. Prairie species experienced the highest extinction rates of any habitat type, and among prairie species, regionally rare and specialist species were most vulnerable to loss. Our study demonstrates how using herbarium records can serve as a call for monitoring biodiversity loss and habitat restoration.
Additional Contributors: Dr. Duane McKenna, University of Memphis & Dr. Jennifer Lau, Indiana University – Bloomington