Secondary extinctions of biodiversity

Jedediah F. Brodie, Clare E. Aslan, Haldre S. Rogers, Kent H. Redford, John L. Maron, Judith L. Bronstein, Craig R. Groves

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Extinctions beget further extinctions when species lose obligate mutualists, predators, prey, or hosts. Here, we develop a conceptual model of species and community attributes affecting secondary extinction likelihood, incorporating mechanisms that buffer organisms against partner loss. Specialized interactors, including 'cryptic specialists' with diverse but nonredundant partner assemblages, incur elevated risk. Risk is also higher for species that cannot either evolve new traits following partner loss or obtain novel partners in communities reorganizing under changing environmental conditions. Partner loss occurs alongside other anthropogenic impacts; multiple stressors can circumvent ecological buffers, enhancing secondary extinction risk. Stressors can also offset each other, reducing secondary extinction risk, a hitherto unappreciated phenomenon. This synthesis suggests improved conservation planning tactics and critical directions for research on secondary extinctions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)664-672
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Co-extinction
  • Conservation planning
  • Extinction debt
  • Functional redundancy
  • Mutualism
  • Resilience
  • Species interactions
  • Trophic cascade

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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