Selectivity in mammalian extinction risk and threat types: a new measure of phylogenetic signal strength in binary traits

The strength of phylogenetic signal in extinction risk can give insight into the mechanisms behind species’ declines. Nevertheless, no existingmeasure of phylogenetic pattern in a binary trait, such as extinctionrisk status, measures signal strength in a way that can be compared among data sets. We developed a new measure for phylogenetic signal of binary traits, D, which simulations show gives robust results with data sets of more than 50 species, even when the proportion of threatened species is low. We applied D to the red-list status of British birds and the world’s mammals and found that the threat status for both groups exhibited moderately strong phylogenetic clumping. We also tested the hypothesis that the phylogenetic pattern of species threatened by harvesting will be more strongly clumped than for those species threatened by either habitat loss or invasive species because the life-history traits mediating the effects of harvesting show strong evolutionary pattern. For mammals, our results supported our hypothesis; there was significant but weaker phylogenetic signal in the risk caused by the other two drivers (habitat loss and invasive species). We conclude that D is likely to be a useful measure of the strength of phylogenetic pattern in many binary traits.