About the GMA


The Global Mammal Assessment (GMA) is a programme 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, the forecast of scenarios of future native mammal loss and introduced mammals invasion during global change (see research themes).

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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Global goals week

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations and the 5th anniversary of the adoption of the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development, created to ensure the prosperity of everyone and the planet, now and into the future.
At its core we can find the Sustainable Development Goals, 17 interlinked objectives that serve as a blueprint to achieve sustainable development. Biodiversity and ecosystem conservation are key features across many of these goals and associated targets.

From the 18th to the 26th of September, the United Nations hosted the Global Goals Week online to celebrate this anniversary. During the past week, over 100 partners joined their voices to inform and mobilize communities and demand urgent action.
Our four Inspire4Nature PhD lab members participated in this week by showcasing in short videos how their respective projects relate with SDGs and/or Aichi targets:

Prabhat Raj Dahal explains how he is improving terrestrial habitat and area of habitat maps in his project “Advancing quantitative analysis for improving IUCN Red List assessment of species”.

Carmen Soria is investigating how species are affected differently by climate change and how they will be affected in the future based on the characteristics they possess in her project “Projected effect of global change on species’ change in extinction risk”.

Ivon Cuadros is contributing to find synergies between biodiversity conservation and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in her project “How will halting biodiversity loss affect the achievement of other Sustainable Development Goals?”.

Maria Lumbierres is also working on improving terrestrial habitat and area of habitat maps, alongside identifying potential Key Biodiversity Areas based on their irreplaceability, in her project “Where will further Key Biodiversity Areas be identified? A modelling approach to focus efforts”.

The videos from the other Inspire4Nature fellows can be found here and in the Inspire4Nature twitter.

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Developing multiscale and integrative nature–people scenarios using the Nature Futures Framework

The rapid decline in the state of nature and its clear links to the prosperity of human societies has led scientists to argue that transformative change, in the way societies relate to nature is urgent. Achieving such a change requires identifying visions, pathways and plans that can help people navigate away from undesirable futures and towards desirable ones. In this paper published in People and Nature journal, the expert group on scenarios and models of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), including Dr. Carlo Rondinini, address the question of how a new group of scenarios that respond to a diverse set of achievable possibilities can be developed in a way that catalyze the movement towards “desirable futures” for people and the planet. Also, under an emerging agreement that sustainability challenges require new ways of knowledge production and decision-making, the involvement of actors outside academia, that integrate the best available knowledge, reconcile values and preferences, and creates ownership of the problems and solution options is an important aspect of scenarios development.

As part of an iterative and consultation process with stakeholders, the framework was elaborated in five methodological phases that evolved and led to the creation of the Nature Futures Framework (NFF), as shown in the following scheme:

The five main methodological phases used for the development of Nature Future Scenarios, which are described in‐depth in Section 3 of the article. This overall process illustrates how the Nature Futures Framework evolved. (Source: Authors’ own)

To include a broad diversity of stakeholders, a combination of systematic outreach approaches across all continents and levels of governance were included before implementing the methodology. It was composed of two main steps, i) a common language among researchers and stakeholders, and ii) the development of core principles: co-production, interactive iteration and pluralism. Through this process, the objective of the Nature Futures Framework was to create a set of multiscale scenarios of desirable futures for nature, legitimized by the co-production process among different stakeholders and scientists that would ensure a plurality of perspectives on how people and nature relate.

As a result of this extensive consultation process, a heuristic tool that captures positive relationships of humans with nature in the form of a triangle was developed. Different visions of nature came out as equally valid, important and desirable for future human–nature relationship, and within those three value perspectives came out as underpinning elements of all visions:

Nature for Nature, in which nature has value in and of itself, and was an underlying rationale in the development of the NFF in the the preservation of nature’s diversity and functions is of primary importance;

Nature for Society, in which nature is primarily valued for the benefits or uses people derive from it, and which could lead to an optimization of multiple uses of nature and

Nature as Culture, in which humans are perceived as an integral part of nature, and therefore what is valued is the reciprocal character of the people–nature relationship.

The NFF acknowledges that people’s diverse relationships with nature is essential for discussing nature futures and to agree on pathways to achieve such desirable future. It presents itself as a boundary framework for bridging multiple disciplines, including the modeling community, and as a tool to incorporate the complex relations of environmental problems into the creation of multiscale, plural biodiversity scenarios.

The proposed framework wants to enrich and prove its approach through a broader engagement of stakeholders situated in different contexts, including groups such as indigenous peoples, the youth and the private sector. The aim of having diverse case studies is to populate the triangle with examples of how nature values are represented in different locations. The way people relates to nature will be different, for example, between the residents of the city of Singapore, Siberian reindeer herders or communities in the south of France. If the NFF is to be used in case studies to visualize nature futures, there are two ways of doing it: First, by identifying a position within the NFF triangle space that represents the relative emphasis of the three value perspectives. Second, depicted in the figure below, where the desired state of the system is represented by a space connecting three points along each of the triangle’s vertices, indicating how well that particular value perspective is achieved.

Local NFF case studies that engage a variety of actors in different social, geographic and ecological contexts are vital for understanding how global change varies from place to place, the diversity of nature values and how local places connect to global processes. When scaled to the global level, the richness of this bottom‐up information can be combined to showcase a diversity of options of what desirable futures for nature could look like globally, based on different emphasis on the nature value perspectives. The use of the NFF enables an opening up of the value perspective space when describing possible nature futures as compared to the present state. (Source: Authors’ own)

The development of the NFF rests on the assumption that there is a critical need to act now to prevent irreversible environmental devastation. Thus, the expert group on scenarios and models of the IPBES, proposes this framework as a common ground wherein a discussion on reversing the degradation of nature and declines in nature’s contribution to people could [and should] be held between actors as diverse as politicians and climate activists.

Source: Pereira, L. M., Davies, K. K., den Belder, E., Ferrier, S., Karlsson‐Vinkhuyzen, S., Kim, H., … & Peterson, G. (2020). Developing multiscale and integrative nature–people scenarios using the Nature Futures Framework. People and Nature. For more information, follow this link: https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pan3.10146

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Global conservation of species’ niches

a, Spatial prioritization for expanding the global system of protected areas to represent the breadth of environmental conditions found across the geographic ranges of species (n = 19,937). b, Areas that would increase the representation of species’ niches that are missing when species’ niches are not considered during reserve selection. To aid visual interpretation, data show the proportion of 25-km2 planning units selected in 2,500-km2 grid cells.

Environmental change is rapidly accelerating, and many species will need to adapt to survive. Ensuring that protected areas cover populations across a broad range of
environmental conditions could safeguard the processes that lead to such adaptations. However, international conservation policies have largely neglected these considerations when setting targets for the expansion of protected areas4. Here we
show that—of 19,937 vertebrate species globally—the representation of environmental
conditions across their habitats in protected areas (hereafter, niche representation) is inadequate for 4,836 (93.1%) amphibian, 8,653 (89.5%) bird and 4,608 (90.9%) terrestrial mammal species. Expanding existing protected areas to cover these gaps would encompass 33.8% of the total land surface—exceeding the current target of 17% that has been adopted by governments. Priority locations for expanding the system of protected areas to improve niche representation occur in global biodiversity hotspots, including Colombia, Papua New Guinea, South Africa and southwest China, as well as across most of the major land masses of the Earth. Conversely, we also show that planning for the expansion of protected areas without explicitly considering environmental conditions would marginally reduce the land area required to 30.7%, but that this would lead to inadequate niche representation for 7,798 (39.1%) species. As the governments of the world prepare to renegotiate global conservation targets, policymakers have the opportunity to help to maintain the adaptive potential of species by considering niche representation within protected areas.

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Protected areas are now the last strongholds for many imperiled mammal species

Michela Pacifici, Moreno Di Marco, James Watson

Top 20 species of mammals threatened by range reduction. The figure highlights species with the highest percentage range contraction since 1970s. Red circles represent species for which protected areas represent the last bastions (> 50% range is protected). Blue circles show species with very high rates of range decline, and relatively small portions of the current distribution protected (< 50%). In each big circle, percentage values at the top indicate range loss, while those at the bottom represent the amount of range currently protected. Protected areas are represented in green. Small dots represent the centroid of the range of the other species in the original sample. A full species list of the top 20 mammals threatened by range reduction (big circles) is provided in Table S1

The global network of terrestrial protected areas (PAs) has experienced a fourfold expansion since the 1970s. Yet, there is increasing debate around the role of the global PA estate in covering and sustaining threatened species, with serious ramifications for current PA financing and the setting of post‐2020 global conservation targets. By comparing “past” (1970s) and current distribution range of 237 mammals, and measuring the proportion of range covered by PAs in the past and in the present, we show that a small number of PAs have now become the last bastions of hope for ensuring the persistence of many mammal species. For 187 species (∼79% of those analyzed) the proportion of range covered by PAs has doubled over the time period, with 10% of all species now having most of their current range protected. This increase in proportional protection over time is largely due to a retreat of species distribution (outside existing PAs) and, in smaller part, to PA expansion. It is clear that adequately resourcing those PAs critical in sustaining mammal species is now essential, to avert a worldwide rapid mammal loss.

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A global map of terrestrial habitat types

Martin Jung, Prabhat Raj Dahal, Stuart H. M. Butchart, Paul F. Donald, Xavier De Lamo, Myroslava Lesiv, Valerie Kapos, Carlo Rondinini & Piero Visconti 

We provide a global, spatially explicit characterization of 47 terrestrial habitat types, as defined in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) habitat classification scheme, which is widely used in ecological analyses, including for quantifying species’ Area of Habitat. We produced this novel habitat map for the year 2015 by creating a global decision tree that intersects the best currently available global data on land cover, climate and land use. We independently validated the map using occurrence data for 828 species of vertebrates (35152 point plus 8181 polygonal occurrences) and 6026 sampling sites. Across datasets and mapped classes we found on average a balanced accuracy of 0.77 (+¯+¯0.14 SD) at Level 1 and 0.71 (+¯+¯0.15 SD) at Level 2, while noting potential issues of using occurrence records for validation. The maps broaden our understanding of habitats globally, assist in constructing area of habitat refinements and are relevant for broad-scale ecological studies and future IUCN Red List assessments. Periodic updates are planned as better or more recent data becomes available.


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Projected Global Loss of Mammal Habitat Due to Land-Use and Climate Change

Daniele Baisero, Piero Visconti, Michela Pacifici, Marta Cimatti, Carlo Rondinini


Human pressure on the environment is driving a global decline of biodiversity. Anticipating whether this trend can be reverted under future scenarios is key to supporting policy decisions. We used the InSiGHTS framework to model the impacts of land-use and climate change on future habitat availability for 2,827 terrestrial mammals at 15 arcmin resolution under five contrasting global scenarios based on combinations of representative concentration pathways and shared socio-economic pathways between 2015 and 2050. Mammal habitat declined globally by 5%–16% depending on the scenario. Africa (with declines up to 25%) and South America were the most affected regions. African insectivores, primates, Australian carnivorous marsupials and marsupial moles, and South American opossums declined the most. Tackling this loss would require a mix of actions across scales, including a global shift toward sustainability, addressing land-use change in sub-Saharan Africa, and helping endemic species track climate change in South America.

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Global correlates of range contractions and expansions in terrestrial mammals

Michela Pacifici, Carlo Rondinini, Jonathan R. Rhodes, Andrew A. Burbidge, Andrea Cristiano, James E. M. Watson, John C. Z. Woinarski & Moreno Di Marco

Schermata da 2020-06-05 13-50-24Understanding changes in species distributions is essential to disentangle the mechanisms that drive their responses to anthropogenic habitat modification. Here we analyse the past (1970s) and current (2017) distribution of 204 species of terrestrial non-volant mammals to identify drivers of recent contraction and expansion in their range. We find 106 species lost part of their past range, and 40 of them declined by >50%. The key correlates of this contraction are large body mass, increase in air temperature, loss of natural land, and high human population density. At the same time, 44 species have some expansion in their range, which correlates with small body size, generalist diet, and high reproductive rates. Our findings clearly show that human activity and life history interact to influence range changes in mammals. While the former plays a major role in determining contraction in species’ distribution, the latter is important for both contraction and expansion.

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Drought vulnerability among China’s ungulates and mitigation offered by protected areas

Lyubing Zhang, Michela Pacifici, Binbin V. Li, Luke Gibson

Schermata da 2020-05-11 11-22-13

Ongoing perturbations in the global climate have triggered changes in the frequency or magnitude of extreme climatic events, including drought. Increasingly common or intense droughts have threatened ungulates. Intensifying trend of drought has been observed in China since the 1980s. We assessed drought vulnerability of 60 ungulate taxa distributed in China by synthesizing information on drought exposure and intrinsic vulnerability related to biological traits. In total, 27 taxa were identified as vulnerable to drought, which represent over half of the taxa assessed as threatened in the IUCN Red List and China’s National Red List. We identified hotspots where a high number of drought‐vulnerable taxa are concentrated, including Northeast Himalayan subalpine conifer forests, alpine conifer and mixed forests of Nujiang‐Lancang Gorge, and Qionglai‐Minshan conifer forests, which are all located in Southwest China. We also assessed conservation efforts that China has allocated to ungulate taxa vulnerable to drought. Drought‐vulnerable taxa that are endemic to China have significantly lower coverage in China’s National Nature Reserve system compared with nonvulnerable taxa. These findings reveal the gaps in existing conservation efforts and indicate possible improvements that might be needed to maintain species resistance in the face of increasing and intensifying drought impacts.

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Welcome to our new lab member!

We are thrilled to introduce our newest lab member and PhD fellow, Dario Nania!

His project – “Identification of KBA using uncommonly used taxa and genetic data as indicators” – aims to identify new Key Biodiversity Areas in Italy. To achieve that, he will use taxa not commonly used for this process, such as reptiles, and genetic data.

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GMA @ European Researchers’ Night

GMA lab has organised a Science happy hour about biodiversity conservation under global change. Three discussion groups, with researchers from all over Europe, will talk about extinction risk, protected arteas, and climate change.

Organisers: Carlo Rondinini, Michela Pacifici, Moreno Di Marco

Speakers: Tom Brooks (International Union for Conservation of Nature, Switzerland), Paul Donald (BirdLife International, UK), Jorg Freyhoff (Museum für Naturkunde, Germany), Ole Mertz (Copenhagen University, Denmark), Mike Hoffmann (Zoological Society London, UK), Ana Rodrigues (CENRS, France), Maria Stoumboudi (Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Greece)


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