Phylogenetic patterns of extinction risk: the need for critical application of appropriate datasets

In order to conduct a replicable analysis of the possible phylogenetic patterns of extinction risk, one must first formulate a clear set of definitions of ecosystem boundaries and risk categories. Subsequently, a robust and internally consistent dataset that includes all the available information on species distributions and risk assessments must be assembled. Here, we review the dataset and methodology of a recent paper focused on phylogenetic patterns of plant extinction risk in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Kenya and Tanzania and point out some of the limitations of inferring such patterns from inadequate and biased data. We show that bias in the dataset is probably responsible for the conclusion that Vulnerable species are more closely related than expected by chance, and provide guidelines for the construction of an appropriate dataset for such an analysis.