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Driven by limited resources and a sense of urgency, the prioritization of species for conservation has been a persistent concern in conservation science. Gymnosperms (comprising ginkgo, conifers, cycads, and gnetophytes) are one of the most threatened groups of living organisms, with 40% of the species at high risk of extinction, about twice as many as the most recent estimates for all plants (i.e. 21.4%). This high proportion of species facing extinction highlights the urgent action required to secure their future through an objective prioritization approach. The Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) method rapidly ranks species based on their evolutionary distinctiveness and the extinction risks they face. EDGE is applied to gymnosperms using a phylogenetic tree comprising DNA sequence data for 85% of gymnosperm species (923 out of 1090 species), to which the 167 missing species were added, and IUCN Red List assessments available for 92% of species. The effect of different extinction probability transformations and the handling of IUCN data deficient species on the resulting rankings is investigated. Although top entries in our ranking comprise species that were expected to score well (e.g. Wollemia nobilis, Ginkgo biloba), many were unexpected (e.g. Araucaria araucana). These results highlight the necessity of using approaches that integrate evolutionary information in conservation science.


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.