Extinction risks of Amazonian plant species

Kenneth J. Feeley, Miles R. Silman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Estimates of the number, and preferably the identity, of species that will be threatened by land-use change and habitat loss are an invaluable tool for setting conservation priorities. Here, we use collections data and ecoregion maps to generate spatially explicit distributions for more than 40,000 vascular plant species from the Amazon basin (representing more than 80% of the estimated Amazonian plant diversity). Using the distribution maps, we then estimate the rates of habitat loss and associated extinction probabilities due to land-use changes as modeled under 2 disturbance scenarios. We predict that by 2050, human land-use practices will have reduced the habitat available to Amazonian plant species by ≈12-24%, resulting in 5-9% of species becoming "committed to extinction," significantly fewer than other recent estimates. Contrary to previous studies, we find that the primary determinant of habitat loss and extinction risk is not the size of a species' range, but rather its location. The resulting extinction risk estimates are a valuable conservation tool because they indicate not only the total percentage of Amazonian plant species threatened with extinction but also the degree to which individual species and habitats will be affected by current and future land-use changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12382-12387
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number30
StatePublished - Jul 28 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Amazon
  • Deforestation
  • Distrbutions
  • Ecoregions
  • Land-use changes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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