Under the impact of human activity, global extinction rates have risen a thousand times higher than fossil record rates. The resources available for conservation are insufficient to prevent the loss of much of the world’s threatened biodiversity during this crisis. Conservation planners have been forced to prioritize their protective activities, in the context of great uncertainty. This has become known as ‘the agony of choice’. A range of methods have been proposed for prioritizing species for conservation attention; one of the most strongly supported is prioritizing those species that maximize Phylogenetic Distinctiveness (PD). We evaluate how a composite measure of extinction risk and phylogenetic isolation has been used to prioritize species according to their degree of unique evolutionary history (Evolutionary Distinctiveness) weighted by conservation urgency (Global Endangerment - EDGE). We review PD-based approaches and provide an updated list of EDGE mammals using the 2010 IUCN Red List. We evaluate how robust this method is to changes in phylogenetic uncertainty, knowledge of taxonomy, and extinction risk, and examine how mammalian species that rank highly in EDGE score are representative of the collective from which they are drawn
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