Changes in human footprint drive changes in species extinction risk

Predicting how species respond to human pressure is essential to anticipate their decline and identify appropriate conservation strategies. Both human pressure and extinction risk change over time, but their inter-relationship is rarely considered in extinction risk modelling. Here we measure the relationship between the change in terrestrial human footprint (HFP)—representing cumulative human pressure on the environment—and the change in extinction risk of the world’s terrestrial mammals. We find the values of HFP across space, and its change over time, are significantly correlated to trends in species extinction risk, with higher predictive importance than environmental or life-history variables. The anthropogenic conversion of areas with low pressure values (HFP < 3 out of 50) is the most significant predictor of change in extinction risk, but there are biogeographical variations. Our framework, calibrated on past extinction risk trends, can be used to predict the impact of increasing human pressure on biodiversity.

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Green Fire Science