Global priorities for conservation across multiple dimensions of mammalian diversity

Fernanda T. Bruma, Catherine H. Graham, Gabriel C. Costa, S. Blair Hedges, Caterina Penone, Volker C. Radeloff, Carlo Rondinini, Rafael Loyola, and Ana D. Davidsonc

Conservation priorities that are based on species distribution, endemism, and vulnerability may underrepresent biologically unique species as well as their functional roles and evolutionary histories. To ensure that priorities are biologically comprehensive, multiple dimensions of diversity must be considered. Further, understanding how the different dimensions relate to one another spatially is important for conservation prioritization, but the relationship remains poorly understood. Here, we use spatial conservation planning to (i) identify and compare priority regions for global mammal conservation across three key dimensions of biodiversity—taxonomic, phylogenetic, and traits—and (ii) determine the overlap of these regions with the locations of threatened species and existing protected areas. We show that priority areas for mammal conservation exhibit low overlap across the three dimensions, highlighting the need for an integrative approach for biodiversity conservation. Additionally, currently protected areas poorly represent the three dimensions of mammalian biodiversity. We identify areas of high conservation priority among and across the dimensions that should receive special attention for expanding the global protected area network. These high-priority areas, combined with areas of high priority for other taxonomic groups and with social, economic, and political considerations, provide a biological foundation for future conservation planning efforts.Conservation priorities that are based on species distribution, endemism, and vulnerability may underrepresent biologically unique species as well as their functional roles and evolutionary histories. To ensure that priorities are biologically comprehensive, multiple dimensions of diversity must be considered. Further, understanding how the different dimensions relate to one another spatially is important for conservation prioritization, but the relationship remains poorly understood. Here, we use spatial conservation planning to (i) identify and compare priority regions for global mammal conservation across three key dimensions of biodiversity—taxonomic, phylogenetic, and traits—and (ii) determine the overlap of these regions with the locations of threatened species and existing protected areas. We show that priority areas for mammal conservation exhibit low overlap across the three dimensions, highlighting the need for an integrative approach for biodiversity conservation. Additionally, currently protected areas poorly represent the three dimensions of mammalian biodiversity. We identify areas of high conservation priority among and across the dimensions that should receive special attention for expanding the global protected area network. These high-priority areas, combined with areas of high priority for other taxonomic groups and with social, economic, and political considerations, provide a biological foundation for future conservation planning efforts.

Global priorities for conservation across multiple

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Quantification of Habitat Fragmentation Reveals Extinction Risk in Terrestrial Mammals

Kevin R. Crooks, Christopher L. Burdett, David M. Theobald, Sarah R. B. King, Moreno Di Marco, Carlo Rondinini, and Luigi Boitani

Although habitat fragmentation is often assumed to be a primary driver of extinction, global patterns of fragmentation and its relationship to extinction risk have not been consistently quantified for any major animal taxon. We developed high-resolution habitat fragmentation models and used phylogenetic comparative methods to quantify the effects of habitat fragmentation on the world’s terrestrial mammals, including 4,018 species across 26 taxonomic Orders. Results demonstrate that species with more fragmentation are at greater risk of extinction, even after accounting for the effects of key macroecological predictors, such as body size and geographic range size. Species with higher fragmentation had smaller ranges and a lower proportion of high-suitability habitat within their range, and most high-suitability habitat occurred outside of protected areas, further elevating extinction risk. Our models provide a quantitative evaluation of extinction risk assessments for species, allow for identification of emerging threats in species not classified as threatened, and provide maps of global hotspots of fragmentation for the world’s terrestrial mammals. Quantification of habitat fragmentation will help guide threat assessment and strategic priorities for global mammal conservation.

Quantification of Habitat Fragmentation Reveals Extinction Risk in Terrestrial Mammals

Degree of habitat fragmentation for the world’s terrestrial mammals.
(A) Degree of habitat fragmentation as indexed by the fragmentation metric,
measuring the amount of core (i.e., interior) habitat, and (B) degree of an-
thropogenic habitat fragmentation

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Shifting baseline in macroecology? Unravelling the influence of human impact on mammalian body mass

Luca Santini, Manuela González-Suárez, Carlo Rondinini and Moreno Di Marco

Human activities have led to hundreds of species extinctions and have narrowed the distribution of many of the remaining species. These changes influence our understanding of global macroecological patterns, but their effects have been rarely explored. One of these patterns, the Bergmann’s rule, has been largely investigated in macroecology, but often under the assumption that observed patterns reflect “natural” processes. We assessed the extent to which humans have re-shaped the observable patterns of body mass distribution in terrestrial mammals, and how this has altered the macroecological baseline.

santini_et_al_fig1

Median mammalian body size in 1×1 degree cells around the world.

Using a comprehensive set of ecological, climatic and anthropogenic variables, we tested several alternative hypotheses to explain the body mass pattern observed in terrestrial mammals’ assemblages at a one-degree resolution. We then explored how model predictions and the Bergmann’s latitudinal pattern are affected by the inclusion of human impact variables and identified areas where predicted body mass differs from the expected due to human impact.

Our model suggests that median and maximum body mass predicted in grid cells would be higher, and skewness in local mass distributions reduced, if human impacts were minimal, especially in areas that are highly accessible to humans and where natural land cover has been converted for human activities.

santini_et_al_fig3

Predicted changes in mammalian body sizes globally. Left panel is change in median and right panel change in maximum values.

Our study provides evidence of the pervasive effects of anthropogenic impact on nature and shows human-induced distortion of global macroecological patterns. This extends the notion of “shifting baseline”, suggesting that when the first macroecological investigations started, our understanding of global geographic patterns was based on a situation which was already compromised. While in the short term human impact is causing species decline and extinction, in the long term, it is causing a broad re-shaping of animal communities with yet unpredicted ecological implications.

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Species’ traits influenced their response to recent climate change​

Michela Pacifici, Piero Visconti, Stuart Butchart, James Watson, Francesca Cassola, Carlo Rondinini

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The paper ‘Species traits influenced their response to recent climate change’ has just been  published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The study reviews the observed impacts of climate change on birds and mammals and aims to identify the relationships between their response to climate change and a set of selected intrinsic traits and spatial factors, based on a total of 70 studies covering 120 mammal species and 66 studies relating to 569 bird species whose populations had (or sought evidence for) a response to climate change in recent decades.

The authors found evidence of observed responses to recent changes in climate for almost 700 species, but only 7% of mammals and 4% of birds that showed a negative response are coded on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as threatened by ‘climate change and severe weather’ under the ‘threats classification scheme’.

Mammals most at risk from climate change are not fossorial, and have low precipitation seasonality within their distributions. For birds, negative responses in both breeding and non-breeding areas were generally observed in species that live at high altitudes, and have low temperature seasonality within their distributions. In addition, large changes in temperature in the last decades negatively affected both mammals and birds.

According to predictions, it is likely that for 47% of threatened mammals and 23% of threatened birds at least one population has already responded negatively to climate change. “This implies that, in the presence of adverse environmental conditions, populations of these species have a high probability of being negatively impacted also by future climatic changes” says lead author Dr. Michela Pacifici at Sapienza University of Rome. The lab is partner of the IUCN Red List with the Global Mammal Assessment Program.

The list of charismatic species likely to have been negatively impacted include the snow leopard, the cheetah, the Bornean orangutan, both species of elephants, the western and eastern gorillas, the Javan, Sumatran and black rhinos among mammals, and the Fiordland crested penguin, the Spanish eagle and the Steller’s eider among birds.

By making predictions on the species for which the levels of climatic hazard experienced are known, the authors provide the first quantification of the number of taxa that may have already been impacted, and also validate trait-based vulnerability assessments. The results of this work suggest that the impact of climate change on mammals and birds in the recent past is currently greatly underappreciated, and this may have important implications for both the scientific community and intergovernmental policy fora.

“Solid evidence is accumulating that climate change has already affected some species, but not others. Based on this evidence, we identify the traits that can help species cope with change, or doom them to decline and endangerment” says lead Dr. Carlo Rondinini, coordinator of the Global Mammal Assessment Program at Sapienza University of Rome. “Our conclusion is that many more species not yet affected may be threatened by climate change in the near future”.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3223

SharedIt link to access a view-only version of ther paper  http://rdcu.be/pd2w

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The broad footprint of climate change from genes to biomes to people

Brett R. Scheffers, Luc De Meester, Tom C. L. Bridge, Ary A. Hoffmann, John M. Pandolfi, Richard T. Corlett, Stuart H.M. Butchart, Paul Pearce-Kelly, Kit M. Kovacs, David Dudgeon, Michela Pacifici, Carlo Rondinini, Wendy B. Foden, Tara G. Martin, Camilo Mora, David Bickford, James, E.M. Watson.

Climate change impacts have now been documented across every ecosystem on Earth, despite an average warming of only ~1°C so far. Here, we describe the full range
and scale of climate change effects on global biodiversity that have been observed in natural systems. To do this, we identify a set of core ecological processes (32 in terrestrial and 31 each in marine and freshwater ecosystems) that underpin ecosystem functioning and support services to people. Of the 94 processes considered, 82% show evidence of impact from climate change in the peer-reviewed literature. Examples of observed impacts from metaanalyses and case studies go beyond wellestablished shifts in species ranges and changes to phenology and population dynamics to include disruptions that scale from the gene to the ecosystem.

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Climate change impacts on ecological processes in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial
ecosystems. Impacts can be measured on multiple processes at different levels of biological organization within ecosystems. In total, 82% of 94 ecological processes show evidence of being affected by climate change. Within levels of organization, the percentage of processes impacted varies from 60% for genetics to 100% for species distribution.

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A Composite Network Approach for Assessing Multi-Species Connectivity: An Application to Road Defragmentation Prioritisation

Luca Santini, Santiago Saura & Carlo Rondinini


One of the biggest challenges in large-scale conservation is quantifying connectivity at broad geographic scales and for a large set of species. Because connectivity analyses can be computationally intensive, and the planning process quite complex when multiple taxa are involved, assessing connectivity at large spatial extents for many species turns to be often intractable. Such limitation results in that conducted assessments are often partial by focusing on a few key species only, or are generic by considering a range of dispersal distances and a fixed set of areas to connect that are not directly linked to the actual spatial distribution or mobility of particular species. By using a graph theory framework, here we propose an approach to reduce computational effort and effectively consider large assemblages of species in obtaining multi-species connectivity priorities. We demonstrate the potential of the approach by identifying defragmentation priorities in the Italian road network focusing on medium and large terrestrial mammals. We show that by combining probabilistic species graphs prior to conducting the network analysis (i) it is possible to analyse connectivity once for all species simultaneously, obtaining conservation or restoration priorities that apply for the entire species assemblage; and that (ii) those priorities are well aligned with the ones that would be obtained by aggregating the results of separate connectivity analysis for each of the individual species. This approach offers great opportunities to extend connectivity assessments to large assemblages of species and broad geographic scales.

fig-2-a-amount-of-suitable-habitat-node-weight-b-road-density-used-for

Fig 2. (a) Amount of suitable habitat (node weight), (b) Road density (used for obtaining the link weights), (c) restoration priority as given by varPC values (cells where actions to mitigate the barrier effect of roads would yield the highest benefit) according to the cumulative results (sum of individual species restoration priorities), and (d) restoration priority according to the best performing composite network (composite network F).

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Setting population targets for mammals using body mass as a predictor of population persistence

Jelle P. Hilbers, Luca Santini, Piero Visconti, Aafke M. Schipper, Cecilia Pinto, Carlo Rondinini, and Mark A.J. Huijbregts

Conservation planning and biodiversity assessments need quantitative targets to optimize planning options and assess the adequacy of current species protection. However, targets aiming at persistence require population-specific data, which limits their use in favor of fixed and non-specific targets, likely leading to unequal distribution of conservation efforts among species. Here we propose a method to derive equitable population targets, which are quantitative targets of population size that ensure equal probabilities of persistence across a set of species, and can be easily inferred from species-specific traits. We applied population dynamics models across a range of life-history traits representative for mammals, and estimated minimum viable population targets intrinsically related to species body mass. Our approach provides a compromise between pragmatic non-specific targets, and detailed context-specific estimates of population viability for which only limited data is available. It enables a first estimation of species-specific population targets based on a readily available trait, and thus allows setting equitable targets for population persistence in large-scale and multispecies conservation assessments and planning.

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Global mammal beta diversity shows parallel assemblage structure in similar but isolated environments

Caterina Penone, Ben G. Weinstein, Catherine H. Graham, Thomas M. Brooks, Carlo Rondinini, S. Blair Hedges, Ana D. Davidson & Gabriel C. Costa

The taxonomic, phylogenetic and trait dimensions of beta diversity each provide us unique insights into the importance of historical isolation and environmental conditions in shaping global diversity. These three dimensions should, in general, be positively correlated. However, if similar environmental conditions filter species with similar trait values, then assemblages located in similar environmental conditions, but separated by large dispersal barriers, may show high taxonomic, high phylogenetic, but low trait beta diversity. Conversely, we expect lower phylogenetic diversity, but higher trait biodiversity among assemblages that are connected but are in differing environmental conditions. We calculated all pairwise comparisons of approximately 110 × 110 km grid cells across the globe for more than 5000 mammal species (approx. 70 million comparisons). We considered realms as units representing geographical distance and historical isolation and biomes as units with similar environmental conditions. While beta diversity dimensions were generally correlated, we highlight geographical regions of decoupling among beta diversity dimensions. Our analysis shows that assemblages from tropical forests in different realms had low trait dissimilarity while phylogenetic beta diversity was significantly higher than expected, suggesting potential convergent evolution. Low trait beta diversity was surprisingly not found between isolated deserts, despite harsh environmental conditions. Overall, our results provide evidence for parallel assemblage structure of mammal assemblages driven by environmental conditions at a global scale.

penoneweinstein_etal_2016-trascinato

Hypothesis framework and expected mapped results. We expect trait and phylogenetic beta diversity to be coupled in most cases (bottom left and top right). Dimensions of beta diversity can be decoupled when assemblages are located in contrasting environments within a realm because of limited historic isolation and environmental filtering (top left) or in similar environments of different realms because of convergent structure of assemblages in similar environmental con- ditions (bottom right). Mechanisms corresponding to each combination of high and low beta diversity dimensions are in italics. Colours in maps highlight expected median beta diversity for specific examples.

 

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Assessing the Cost of Global Biodiversity and Conservation Knowledge

Diego Juffe-Bignoli , Thomas M. Brooks, Stuart H. M. Butchart, Richard B. Jenkins, Kaia Boe, Michael Hoffmann, Ariadne Angulo, Steve Bachman, Monika Böhm, Neil Brummitt, Kent E. Carpenter, Pat J. Comer, Neil Cox, Annabelle Cuttelod, William R. T. Darwall, Moreno Di Marco, Lincoln D. C. Fishpool, Bárbara Goettsch, Melanie Heath, Craig Hilton-Taylor, Jon Hutton, Tim Johnson, Ackbar Joolia, David A. Keith, Penny F. Langhammer, Jennifer Luedtke, Eimear Nic Lughadha, Maiko Lutz, Ian May, Rebecca M. Miller, María A. Oliveira-Miranda, Mike Parr, Caroline M. Pollock, Gina Ralph, Jon Paul Rodríguez, Carlo Rondinini, Jane Smart, Simon Stuart, Andy Symes, Andrew W. Tordoff, Stephen Woodley, Bruce Young and Naomi Kingston

Knowledge products comprise assessments of authoritative information supported by standards, governance, quality control, data, tools, and capacity building mechanisms. Considerable resources are dedicated to developing and maintaining knowledge products for biodiversity conservation, and they are widely used to inform policy and advise decision makers and practitioners. However, the financial cost of delivering this information is largely undocumented. We evaluated the costs and funding sources for developing and maintaining four global biodiversity and conservation knowledge products: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems, Protected Planet, and the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas. These are secondary data sets, built on primary data collected by extensive networks of expert contributors worldwide. We estimate that US$160 million (range: US$116–204 million), plus 293 person-years of volunteer time (range: 278–308 person-years) valued at US$ 14 million (range US$12–16 million), were invested in these four knowledge products between 1979 and 2013. More than half of this financing was provided through philanthropy, and nearly three-quarters was spent on personnel costs. The estimated annual cost of maintaining data and platforms for three of these knowledge products (excluding the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems for which annual costs were not possible to estimate for 2013) is US$6.5 million in total (range: US$6.2–6.7 million). We estimated that an additional US$114 million will be needed to reach pre-defined baselines of data coverage for all the four knowledge products, and that once achieved, annual maintenance costs will be approximately US$12 million. These costs are much lower than those to maintain many other, similarly important, global knowledge products. Ensuring that biodiversity and conservation knowledge products are sufficiently up to date, comprehensive and accurate is fundamental to inform decision-making for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Thus, the development and implementation of plans for sustainable long-term financing for them is critical.

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Using habitat suitability models to scale up population persistence targets

Moreno Di Marco, Luca Santini, Piero Visconti, Alessio Mortelliti, Luigi Boitani & Carlo Rondinini


ARC Setting operational targets for the protection of species is crucial for identifying conservation priorities and for monitoring conservation actions’ effectiveness. The use of quantitative targets for global species conservation has grown in the past ten years as a response to the commitment of reducing extinction rates established by the Convention on Biological Diversity. We reviewed the use of conservation targets in global scale conservation analyses, and found that most of the publications adopted species representation targets, corresponding to an amount of area to be protected. We found no work adequately targeting species’ persistence, i.e. the complement to species extinction risk. Despite the adoption of pragmatic population targets, consisting in a number of individuals to be protected, has been recently proposed for global species conservation, the use of these targets at the species level is not always warranted. Pros and cons of using population persistence targets for species conservation have been discussed, yet the fundamental issue of how to scale these targets from populations to species is still unresolved. We discuss the process of “scaling up” population persistence targets to the species level using habitat distribution models, and test our approach in a case study on the European ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus). We identified three main steps to be followed: (i) definition of a population target, (ii) characterisation of the species’ populations by means of a habitat suitability model, and (iii) definition of a scaled species target. An up-scaled species target should include multiple conditions reflecting species persistence (number, size, location of the populations to be protected), uniqueness (e.g. evolutionary potential) and representativeness (e.g. presence in different ecosystems). Adopting scaled up species persistence targets within conservation planning approaches can allow protected area plans to give the highest contribution to reducing global species extinction risk.
figure-1-distribution-range-of-spermophilus-citellus-suitable-habitat-coloured-area

Distribution range of Spermophilus citellus. Suitable habitat (coloured area) is surrounded by a potential dispersal matrix (shaded area) within the species range (in light grey). Areas smaller than the defined target area are reported in dark green, while clusters of suitable habitat larger than the target area are reported in random colours (with different colours indicating different clusters).  

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