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Data uncertainty and the selectivity of extinction risk in freshwater invertebrates




To investigate the impact of different treatments of the IUCN Data Deficient (DD) category on taxonomic and geographical patterns of extinction risk in crayfish, freshwater crabs and dragonflies.




We used contingency tables to evaluate taxonomic and geographical selectivity of data deficiency and extinction risk for three invertebrate taxonomic groups (crayfish, dragonflies and damselflies, and freshwater crabs) based on their IUCN Red List status. We investigated differences in patterns of data deficiency and extinction risk among taxonomic families, geographical realms and taxonomic families within geographical realms for each of the three groups. At each level, we evaluated the impact of uncertainty conferred by the conservation status of DD species on extinction risk patterns exhibited by that group. We evaluated three scenarios: excluding DD species, treating all DD species as non-threatened and treating all DD species as threatened.


At the global scale, DD species were taxonomically non-randomly distributed in freshwater crabs and dragonflies, and geographically non-randomly distributed in all three taxonomic groups. Although the presence of under- or over-threatened families and biogeographical realms was generally unchanging across scenarios, the strength of taxonomic and geographical selectivity of extinction risk varied. There was little consistent evidence for taxonomic selectivity of extinction risk at sub-global scales in freshwater crabs and dragonflies, either among biogeographical realms or among scenarios.

Main conclusions

Global patterns of taxonomic selectivity and geographical selectivity were generally consistent with one another and robust to different treatments of DD species. However, sub-global scale conservation prioritization from these types of data sets will require increased investment to make accurate decisions. Given the current levels of data uncertainty, the relative importance of biological characteristics and threatening processes in driving extinctions in freshwater invertebrates cannot be easily determined. We recommend that DD species should be given high research priority to determine their true status.

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