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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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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IPBES report has generated a lot of headlines but, what else is on it?

Report of the Plenary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services on the work of its seventh session

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has released its first global assessment of biodiversity, its contributions to humanity and scenarios for its conservation. This report has left us with big headlines in the media and has put biodiversity in the center of the public agenda. However, far from the big headlines of the moment, the science community have been rising the alarms since long time ago. The report covers the decline in biodiversity and ecosystem services, the drivers of this change, the failure to meet many conservation goals and the transformative change needed to rise to the challenge. IPBES report has generated a lot of headlines but, what else is on it?

The most shocking headline that IPBES report has left is that 1 million species are at risk of extinction. This number comes from the knowledge of experts that have calculated that 25% of the species evaluated in the IUCN Red List are at risk of extinction. However is also important to continue the sentence, the report also said that this risk is imminent, many of these species face extinction in the next 10 years, if we don’t do something about it. Moreover, without action, the rates of biodiversity loss will incense 10 to 100 times the background levels.

Another conclusion that is clear from this report is that the causes of the decline on biodiversity are human activities. Changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution, and invasion of alien species, are the main drivers that are threatening biodiversity. At the same time, these threads are also threatening humans well being. Biodiversity and healthy ecosystem are vital contributions for human existent. This contribution takes a lot of forms form ecosystem goods and services to naturals gifts.

The most encouraging part of the report is that we still have time to reverse these dramatic trends, but we have to start working right now, it is an urgent matter. We have to put biodiversity at the top of the global agenda. This will require changes in western economic and social systems and changes in our patterns of production and consumption. It will require the sustainable production of food and other resources, alongside a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Society needs to shift from an economic growth perspective to a nature-based one. The report also confirms that nature managed by indigenous people and local communities are in better health than other managements systems. Therefore, to conserve natural ecosytems, governments need to learn from these communities, implementing their knowledge of nature into future policies.

This report is based on 15,000 scientific articles and government reports, integrating information from natural and social sciences, indigenous peoples and traditional agricultural communities. From the Global Mammal Assessment, we contribute to scientific biodiversity knowledge. As members of the IUCN Red List Partnership we are dedicated to the assessment of mammal extinction risk. Moreover we work in the development of species distribution models, the forecast of scenarios of future native and introduced species, risk of extinction due to climate change, and SDGs. Carlo Rondinini, coordinator of the Global Mammal Assessment, was one of the experts invited to write the IPBES report.

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Prof. Hugh Possingham in Sapienza

On 13th of May, the Chief Scientist of The Nature Conservancy(TNC), Prof. Hugh Possingham gave a talk on “Novel Conservation science and economics that drives outcomes for The Nature Conservancy” at the Department of Biology and Biotechnologies in Sapienza University of Rome. Prof. Possingham kicked off the session by introducing TNC. He then highlighted the role of mathematics, economics and decision science in conservation. The students also got to know about the famous decision science software Marxan from the inventor himself. The talk then progressed towards some of the projects implemented by TNC. “Debt for nature swaps” was one of the fascinating projects implemented by TNC where a country’s debt was paid by TNC in exchange for commitments to protect nature. In another project called “Reverse Auction”, the farmers were actually given money to leave water in their farms during the winter for the birds. He also talked about the projects which harnessed the potential of geospatial and decision science tools for protecting nature. Development of conservation plan in Mongolia using Marxan, action maps for pollution were some of the examples of such projects. The talk was followed by a short and lively question/answer session.

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Geographic distribution ranges of terrestrial mammal species in the 1970s

by Michela Pacifici, Andrea Cristiano, Andrew A. Burbidge, John C.Z. Woinarski, Moreno Di Marco, Carlo Rondinini

Read the full article here (open access!)


Here we provide geographic distribution ranges for 205 species of terrestrial non‐volant mammals in the 1970s. We selected terrestrial non‐volant mammals because they are among the most studied groups, have greater availability of historical distribution data for the 1970s decade, and also show the largest range contractions compared to other taxonomic groups (Di Minin et al. 2013; Ripple et al., 2014). Species belong to 52 families and 16 orders. Range maps were extracted from scientific literature including published papers, books, and action plans. For Australian species, due to the absence of published maps, we collated occurrence data from individual data sets (maintained by museums and government agencies) and converted these into polygonal range maps. Taxonomic and geographic biases towards more studied (charismatic) species are inevitably present. Among the most abundant orders, the highest percentage representation is for Carnivora (55 species, corresponding to 21% of species in the order), Cetartiodactyla (24 species, 10% of the order) and Perissodactyla (6 species, 38% of the order). In contrast, the percentage representation is low for Rodentia (66 species, 3% of species in the order), Primates (19 species, 4%) and Eulipotyphla (6 species, 1%). The proportional representation of less speciose orders is highly variable. The dataset offers the opportunity to measure the recent (1970‐present) change in the distribution of terrestrial mammal species, and test ecological and biogeographical hypotheses about such change. It also allows to identify areas where changes in species distribution were largest.

The GMA PhD fellows joined the Inspire4Nature workshop on Key Biodiversity Areas in Rhodes, Greece.

In the Greek island of Rhodes, the oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe, and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, we put ourselves into work. Our objective was to experience a real life scenario in the selection of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA). We went trough theoretical and practical exercises to identify sites in Greece contributing significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity. With the input from external scientists specialized in different taxonomic groups and KBA experts, we followed the Global Standard for the identification of Key Biodiversity Areas. This document highlights a resulting effort of more than 30 years in identifying important sites for different taxonomic, ecological and thematic subsets of biodiversity.

The training session took place at the historic building of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) in Rhodes, Greece.

The process started with a scoping analysis to compile a list of species in Greece that could trigger the species-based criteria for potential KBAs. Quality data of the species and region of interest are necessary to verify that the proposed species comply with the relevant thresholds. KBA identification and delineation is done by overlaying spatial data of the species with existing conservation sites (e.g. Protected areas) or management units.

After official submission of a proposed area, the KBA secretariat coordinates the process to confirm species’ presence at the site, refine delineation to yield manageable boundaries, and if the threshold is met, finally confirm the site as a new KBA.

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