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How cross-species comparative methods benefit conservation biology

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The phylogenetic comparative method is a way of finding correlates of a particular trait across many species. It has revolutionised evolutionary biology in the past decade, but can it also help solve key problems in conservation, such as prioritising endangered species research, predicting invasions and understanding species responses to climate change? We suggest that this method is helping us to understand broad-scale mechanisms in conservation, but that its ability to predict susceptibility of individual species to threats is limited. For example, it can tell us that Australian marsupials in areas of more intense pastoralism have suffered more population and species extinctions, but it won't reveal exactly what made a particular species disappear.

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