Changes in human footprint drive changes in species extinction risk

Journal: Nature Communications

Published: 2018-11-05

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-07049-5

Affiliations: 5

Authors: 4

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Research Highlight

Animals feel the weight of human footprint

© Georgi Fadejev/EyeEm/Getty

© Georgi Fadejev/EyeEm/Getty

Human activity poses the biggest extinction threat to land animals, particularly those living in previously untouched landscapes.

Predicting which animals could soon be endangered is essential for guiding conservation programmes, yet models rarely include the relationship between changing human activity and extinction risk.

Now, a team that included researchers from the University of Queensland has mapped global changes in human footprint (a 0 to 50 scale of human impacts on an area) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature risk status of nearly 4,500 land mammals over a 16-year period. They found that human activity drove extinction risk more than changes in the environment or species characteristics. The risk rose the most dramatically in regions recently converted from a natural or near-natural state.

Protecting remaining natural habitats may not be enough and some wilderness may need to be restored to save endangered animals from extinction.

Supported content

  1. Nature Communications 9, 4621 (2018). doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-07049-5
Institutions Share
The University of Queensland (UQ), Australia 0.38
University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), Canada 0.25
CSIRO Land and Water, Australia 0.13
The Nature Conservancy, United States of America (USA) 0.13
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), United States of America (USA) 0.13