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Inconsistent detection of extinction debts using different methods

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

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  • Ridding
  • Adrian C. Newton
  • Sal Keith
  • R Walls
  • Anita Diaz
  • James Bullock
  • Richard F. Pywell
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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/01/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Ecography
Issue number1
Volume44
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)33-43
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date8/10/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

The extinction debt, delayed species extinctions following landscape degradation, is a widely discussed concept. But a consensus about the prevalence of extinctions debts is hindered by a multiplicity of methods and a lack of comparisons among habitats. We applied three contrasting species–area relationship methods to test for plant community extinction debts in three habitats which had different degradation histories over the last century: calcareous grassland, heathland and woodland. These methods differ in their data requirements, with the first two using information on past and current habitat area alongside current species richness, whilst the last method also requires data on past species richness. The most data‐intensive, and hence arguably most reliable method, identified extinction debts across all habitats for specialist species, whilst the other methods did not. All methods detected an extinction debt in calcareous grassland, which had undergone the most severe degradation. We conclude that some methods failed to detect an extinction debt, particularly in habitats that have undergone moderate degradation. Data on past species numbers are required for the most reliable method; as such data are rare, extinction debts may be under‐reported.