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Resistence and resilience: quantifying relative extinction risk in a diverse assemblage of Australian tropical rainforest vertebrates

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 07:33 authored by Isaac, JL, Vanderwal, J, Christopher JohnsonChristopher Johnson, Williams, SE
Aim Assessing the relative vulnerability of species within an assemblage to extinction is crucial for conservation planning at the regional scale. Here, we quantify relative vulnerability to extinction, in terms of both resistance and resilience to environmental change, in an assemblage of tropical rainforest vertebrates. Location Wet Tropics Bioregion, north Queensland, Australia. Methods We collated data on 163 vertebrates that occur in the Australian Wet Tropics, including 24 frogs, 33 reptiles, 19 mammals and 87 birds. We used the ‘seven forms of rarity’ model to assess relative vulnerability or resistance to environmental change. We then develop a new analogous eight-celled model to assess relative resilience, or potential to recover from environmental perturbation, based on reproductive output, potential for dispersal and climatic niche marginality. Results In the rarity model, our assemblage had more species very vulnerable and very resistant than expected by chance. There was a more even distribution of species over the categories in the resilience model. The three traits included in each model were not independent of each other; species that were widespread were also habitat generalists, while species with narrow geographical ranges tended to be locally abundant. In the resilience model, species with low reproductive output had a narrow climatic niche and also a low capacity to disperse. Frogs were the most vulnerable taxonomic group overall. The model categories were compared to current IUCN category of listed species, and the product of the two models was best correlated with IUCN listings. Main conclusions The models presented here offer an objective way to predict the resistance of a species to environmental change, and its capacity to recover from disturbance. The new resilience model has similar advantages to the rarity model, in that it uses simple information and is therefore useful for examining patterns in assemblages with many poorly known species.


Publication title

Diversity and Distributions








School of Natural Sciences


Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

9600 Garsington Rd, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox4 2Dg

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The definitive published version is available online at:

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Socio-economic Objectives

Terrestrial biodiversity

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