About the GMA


The Global Mammal Assessment (GMA) is a program carried out at the Department of Biology and Biotechnologies, Sapienza University of Rome, a member of the IUCN Red List Partnership. Our laboratory includes a mix of researchers, PhD students, Masters students and Program Officers dedicated to the assessment of mammal extinction risk, the development of mammal distribution maps, and the forecast of scenarios of future mammal loss driven by global change. The tasks of the GMA program include:

  • Keeping up to date information on the ecology, distribution, status and threats to all mammal species worldwide and updating the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • Coordinating together with over 35 mammal Specialist Groups (within the IUCN Species Survival Commission) to help bring the best science to bare to improve decision making.
  • Prioritizing regions of the world, species, and conservation actions to prevent extinctions with the available conservation resources.
  • Publishing key findings in scientific and general literature to advance the science and policies surrounding mammal conservation efforts.

We aim to support conservation decisions with the best available mammal data globally.

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Assessing species vulnerability to climate change

Michela Pacifici, Wendy B. Foden, Piero Visconti, James E. M. Watson, Stuart H.M. Butchart, Kit M. Kovacs, Brett R. Scheffers, David G. Hole, Tara G. Martin, H. Resit Akçakaya, Richard T. Corlett, Brian Huntley, David Bickford, Jamie A. Carr, Ary A. Hoffmann, Guy F. Midgley, Paul Pearce-Kelly, Richard G. Pearson, Stephen E. Williams, Stephen G. Willis, Bruce Young and Carlo Rondinini

Nature Climate change 5,215–224(2015). doi:10.1038/nclimate2448


The effects of climate change on biodiversity are increasingly well documented, and many methods have been developed to assess species’ vulnerability to climatic changes, both ongoing and projected in the coming decades. To minimize global biodiversity losses, conservationists need to identify those species that are likely to be most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In this Review, we summarize different currencies used for assessing species’ climate change vulnerability. We describe three main approaches used to derive these currencies (correlative, mechanistic and trait-based), and their associated data requirements, spatial and temporal scales of application and modelling methods. We identify strengths and weaknesses of the approaches and highlight the sources of uncertainty inherent in each method that limit projection reliability. Finally, we provide guidance for conservation practitioners in selecting the most appropriate approach(es) for their planning needs and highlight priority areas for further assessments.

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Projecting global biodiversity indicators under future development scenarios

Piero Visconti, Michel Bakkenes, Daniele Baisero, Thomas Brooks, Stuart H. M. Butchart, Lucas Joppa, Rob Alkemade, Moreno Di Marco, Luca Santini, Michael Hoffmann, Luigi Maiorano, Robert L. Pressey, Anni Arponen, Luigi Boitani, April E. Reside, Detlef van Vuuren and Carlo Rondinini

Conservation Letters, DOI: 10.1111/conl.12159


Projected LPI (A,B,C) and RLI (D,E,F) for terrestrial carnivores and ungulates under 2 global socio-economic scenarios. Business-as-usual in red and Consumption Change in blue. (A,D) Species can adapt to climate change, (B,E), maximum dispersal under land-use and climate change, (C,F) and no dispersal under land-use and climate change.

To address the ongoing global biodiversity crisis, governments have set strategic objectives and have adopted indicators to monitor progress towards their achievement. Projecting the likely impacts on biodiversity of different policy decisions allows decision makers to understand if and how these targets can be met. We projected trends in two widely used indicators of population abundance (the Living Planet Index; LPI) and extinction risk (the Red List Index; RLI) under different climate and land-use change scenarios. Testing these on terrestrial carnivore and ungulate species, we found that both indicators decline steadily, and by 2050, under a business-as-usual scenario, the LPI declines by 18–35% while extinction risk increases for 8–23% of the species, depending on assumptions about species responses to climate change. Business-as-usual will therefore fail CBD target 12 of improving the conservation status of known threatened species. An alternative sustainable development scenario reduces both extinction risk and population losses compared with Business-as-usual and could lead to population increases. Our approach to model species responses to global changes brings the focus of scenarios directly to the species level, thus taking into account an additional dimension of biodiversity and paving the way for including stronger ecological foundations into future biodiversity scenario assessments.

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Habitat availability for amphibians and extinction threat: a global analysis

Gentile Francesco Ficetola, Carlo Rondinini, Anna Bonardi, Daniele Baisero & Emilio Padoa-Schioppa

Diversity and Distributions, DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12296


Habitat loss and degradation are the factors threatening the largest number of amphibian species. However, quantitative measures of habitat availability only exist for a small subset of them. We evaluated the relationships between habitat availability, extinction risk and drivers of threat for the world’s amphibians. We developed deductive habitat suitability models to estimate the extent of suitable habitat and the proportion of suitable habitat (PSH) inside the geographic range of each species, covering species and areas for which little or no high-resolution distribution data are available.


We used information on habitat preferences to develop habitat suitability models at 300-m resolution, by integrating range maps with land cover and elevation. Model performance was assessed by comparing model output with point localities where species were recorded. We then used habitat availability as a surrogate of area of occupancy. Using the IUCN criteria, we identified species having narrow area of occupancy, for which extinction risk is likely underestimated.


We developed models for 5363 amphibians. Validation success of models was high (94%), being better for forest specialists and generalists than for open habitat specialists. Generalists had proportionally more habitat than forest or open habitat specialists. The PSH was lower for species having small geographical ranges, currently listed as threatened, and for which habitat loss is recognized as a threat. Differences in habitat availability among biogeographical realms were strong. We identified 61 forest species for which the extinction risk may be higher that currently assessed in the Red List, due to limited extent of suitable habitat.

Main conclusions

Habitat models can accurately predict amphibian distribution at fine scale and allow describing biogeographical patterns of habitat availability. The strong relationship between amount of suitable habitat and extinction threat may help the conservation assessment in species for which limited information is currently available.

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Human pressures predict species’ geographic range size better than biological traits


Global Change Biology, DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12834

gma_web_picMean values of geographic range size in terrestrial mammals.

Geographic range size is the manifestation of complex interactions between intrinsic species traits and extrinsic environmental conditions. It is also a fundamental ecological attribute of species and a key extinction risk correlate. Past research has primarily focused on the role of biological and environmental predictors of range size, but macroecological patterns can also be distorted by human activities. Here we analyse the role of extrinsic (biogeography, habitat state, climate, human pressure) and intrinsic (biology) variables in predicting range size of the world’s terrestrial mammals. In particular, our aim is to compare the predictive ability of human pressure vs species biology. We evaluated the ability of 19 intrinsic and extrinsic variables in predicting range size for 4,867 terrestrial mammals. We repeated the analyses after excluding restricted-range species and performed separate analyses for species in different biogeographic realms and taxonomic groups. Our model had high predictive ability, and showed that climatic variables and human pressures are the most influential predictors of range size. Interestingly, human pressures predict current geographic range size better than biological traits. These findings were confirmed when repeating the analyses on large-ranged species, individual biogeographic regions and individual taxonomic groups. Climatic and human impacts have determined the extinction of mammal species in the past, and are the main factors shaping the present distribution of mammals. These factors also affect other vertebrate groups globally, and their influence on range size may be similar as well. Measuring climatic and human variables can allow to obtain approximate range size estimations for data deficient and newly discovered species (e.g. hundreds of mammal species worldwide). Our results support the need for a more careful consideration of the role of climate change and human impact – as opposed to species biological characteristics – in shaping species distribution ranges.

IX Congresso Italiano di Teriologia (7-10 May 2014, Civitella Alfedena, IT)

Michela Pacifici presenting “Italian hotspots of mammal species vulnerable to climate change”
Luca Santini awarded for the best publication on Hystrix, the Italian Journal of Mammalogy, for the paper
“Santini L., Di Marco M., Visconti P., Baisero D., Boitani L., Rondinini C. 2013. Ecological correlates of dispersal distance in terrestrial mammals. Hystrix, the Italian Journal of Mammalogy 24(2)

The abstracts of our oral presentations and posters were published and are available on Hystrix vol. 25(special issue)



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A mid-term analysis of progress toward international biodiversity targets

Tittensor D.P., Walpole M., Hill S.L.L., Boyce D.G., Britten G.L., Burgess N.D., Butchart S.H.M., Leadley P.W., Regan E.C., Alkamade R., Baumung R., Bellard C., Bouwman L., Bowles-Newark N.J., Chenery A.M., Cheung W.W.L., Christensen V., Cooper H.D., Crowther A.R., Dixon M.J.R., Galli A., Gaveau V., Gregory R.D., Gutierrez N.L., Hirsch T., Hoft R., Januchowski-Hartley S.R., Karmann M., Krug C.B., Leverington F.J., Loh J., Lojenga R.K., Malsch K., Marques A., Morgan D.H.W., Mumby P.J., Newbold T., Noonan-Mooney K., Pagad S.N., Parks B.C., Pereira H.M., Robertson T., Rondinini C., Santini L., Scharlemann J.P.W., Schindler S., Sumaila U.R., Teh L.S.L., van Kolck J., Visconti P., Ye Y.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.01.14

In 2010 the international community, under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity, agreed on 20 biodiversity-related “Aichi Targets” to be achieved within a decade. We provide a comprehensive mid-term assessment of progress toward these global targets using 55 indicator data sets. We projected indicator trends to 2020 using an adaptive statistical framework that incorporated the specific properties of individual time series. On current trajectories, results suggest that despite accelerating policy and management responses to the biodiversity crisis, the impacts of these efforts are unlikely to be reflected in improved trends in the state of biodiversity by 2020. We highlight areas of societal endeavor requiring additional efforts to achieve the Aichi Targets, and provide a baseline against which to assess future progress.

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Upcoming conference participation

In May, recent and ongoing research activities of the GMA lab will be presented at three conferences. Carlo Rondinini will make a plenary speech on “Global modelling for mammal conservation” at the 10th Ecology and Behaviour Meeting (12-16 May, Montpellier, FR) and a presentation on “Effectiveness of African protected areas for the conservation of large mammals” at the Symposium on Remote Sensing for Conservation, organized by the Zoological Society of London (22-23 May, London, UK). Luca Santini and Michela Pacifici will present several oral and poster contributions at the IX Congresso Italiano di Teriologia (7-10 May 2014, Civitella Alfedena, IT). More info on the Congress websites:

10th Ecology and Behaviour Meeting:


Symposium on Remote Sensing for Conservation:


IX Congresso Italiano di Teriologia:


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GMA lab and Satellite Remote Sensing for Biodiversity

front-matterCheck out the recent ISSUE N. 369 of Philosophical Transactions B on Satellite remote sensing for biodiversity research and conservation applications. This issue includes two articles with coordination/participation of GMA lab members.

Wegmann, M, Santini L, Leutner B, Safi K, Rocchini D, Bevanda M, Latifi, H, Dech S, Rondinini C. 2014 Role of African protected areas in maintaining connectivity for large mammals. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 369: 20130193. Download the PDF or ask us for a copy.

Di Marco M, Buchanan GM, Szantoi Z, Holmgren M, Grottolo Marasini G, Gross D, Tranquilli S, Boitani L, Rondinini C. 2014 Drivers of extinction risk in African mammals: the interplay of distribution state, human pressure, conservation response and species biology. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 369: 20130198. Download the PDF or ask us for a copy.


Incorporating spatial population structure in gap analysis reveals inequitable assessments of species protection


Diversity & Distribution DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12198

Quartz %dGap analysis measures the percentage of protected species distribution and generally compares it to a representation target (i.e. minimum area to be protected). The results are used to identify species that need further protection, providing a quantitative baseline to address a possible expansion of a given protected area (PA) systems. However, the achievement of the same representation target may have different implications in terms of species persistence depending on population spatial structure and conservation needs. The aim was to investigate to what extent and why gap analysis may provide inequitable assessments of species protection.

We performed three gap analyses on 27 European species of carnivores and ungulates, measuring the level of protection according to three different types of distribution data: geographical ranges, habitat suitability models and habitat suitability models that incorporate the potential spatial structuring in populations within PAs.

The estimated degree of species protection depends on the distribution proxy and the target adopted. When the analyses are based on areas able to support viable populations (irrespective of how these areas are quantified), the perceived relative protection of different species changes considerably. The ability of different species to persist in PA systems mostly depends on their population density and dispersal abilities, as well as the interaction between these two features, which eventually determines the number and relative size of the populations.

The achievement of the same representation target for different species may imply protecting different numbers of individuals in populations having different spatial structures and may consequently lead to different probabilities of persistence across species. If species spatial structuring is disregarded, gap analysis may thus lead to inequitable assessments of PA coverage.