Biology

Hotspots of human impact on threatened terrestrial vertebrates

by James R. Allan, James E. M. Watson, Moreno Di Marco, Christopher J. O’Bryan, Hugh P. Possingham, Scott C. Atkinson, Oscar Venter

Conserving threatened species requires identifying where across their range they are being impacted by threats, yet this remains unresolved across most of Earth. Here, we present a global analysis of cumulative human impacts on threatened species by using a spatial framework that jointly considers the co-occurrence of eight threatening processes and the distribution of 5,457 terrestrial vertebrates. We show that impacts to species are widespread, occurring across 84% of Earth’s surface, and identify hotspots of impacted species richness and coolspots of unimpacted species richness. Almost one-quarter of assessed species are impacted across >90% of their distribution, and approximately 7% are impacted across their entire range. These results foreshadow localised extirpations and potential extinctions without conservation action. The spatial framework developed here offers a tool for defining strategies to directly mitigate the threats driving species’ declines, providing essential information for future national and global conservation agendas.

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