Predicting extinction risk of Brazilian Atlantic forest angiosperms

Tarciso C. C. Leao, Carlos R. Fonseca, Carlos A. Peres, Marcelo Tabarelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding how plant life history affects species vulnerability to anthropogenic disturbances and environmental change is a major ecological challenge. We examined how vegetation type, growth form, and geographic range size relate to extinction risk throughout the Brazilian Atlantic Forest domain. We used a database containing species-level information of 6,929 angiosperms within 112 families and a molecular-based working phylogeny. We used decision trees, standard regression, and phylogenetic regression to explore the relationships between species attributes and extinction risk. We found a significant phylogenetic signal in extinction risk. Vegetation type, growth form, and geographic range size were related to species extinction risk, but the effect of growth form was not evident after phylogeny was controlled for. Species restricted to either rocky outcrops or scrub vegetation on sandy coastal plains exhibited the highest extinction risk among vegetation types, a finding that supports the hypothesis that species adapted to resource-limited environments are more vulnerable to extinction. Among growth forms, epiphytes were associated with the highest extinction risk in non-phylogenetic regression models, followed by trees, whereas shrubs and climbers were associated with lower extinction risk. However, the higher extinction risk of epiphytes was not significant after correcting for phylogenetic relatedness. Our findings provide new indicators of extinction risk and insights into the mechanisms governing plant vulnerability to extinction in a highly diverse flora where human disturbances are both frequent and widespread.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1349-1359
Number of pages11
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


  • Angiosperms
  • Biodiversity
  • Brazil
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Extinction, Biological
  • Forests
  • Risk Assessment

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