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Extinction surveys describe the history of anthropogenic biodiversity loss and may help predict future patterns.

Extinctions over the last 500 years (at least) have been attributed overwhelmingly to escalating human-mediated destruction of the environment; however, evidence for the relationship between human activity and global patterns of biodiversity loss has not been precisely documented for many groups of plants and animals.

If contemporary patterns of anthropogenic loss are to be assessed effectively and realistically, one must understand and document how extinctions have occurred throughout the development of the modern world. Analyses of recent species losses, as proposed by the CREO research program, can provide data for the taxonomic and geographic distribution of these extinctions, which will be valuable to any overview of the historical patterns of anthropogenic biodiversity loss. This will lead to a better understanding of the processes that have generated those patterns. Interpretation of such historical data has an important predictive value for potential losses in the future (Smith et al., 1993). For example, analysis of the effects of habitat modification or species introduction on regional extinction patterns can be used as predictors for the potential impact of similar disturbances in the future.

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