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Journal ArticleDOI

The legacy of past human land use in current patterns of mammal distribution

01 Oct 2019-Ecography (Wiley)-Vol. 42, Iss: 10, pp 1623-1635

Abstract: Multiple environmental factors are known to shape species distributions at the global scale, including climate and topography, but understanding current extents of occurrence and biodiversity patterns requires considering anthropogenic factors as well. Numerous studies have explored the relationship between contemporary human activities and different biodiversity metrics, but the influence of past activities, such as land-use, remains poorly understood despite being one of the oldest human impacts. Here we evaluate the role of past land-use modifications in the current distribution and conservation status of mammals worldwide using spatial data characterizing human land use from c.B.C.6000 to c.A.D.2000. First, we applied a clustering method that revealed three generalized past human land-use trajectories that represent low-, recently- and steadily-used areas widely represented across the globe. Second, we fitted boosted regression trees to predict total and threatened mammalian richness, globally and within trajectory-clusters, testing the role of environmental factors and multiple human land-use metrics reflecting: total used area at different time spans, rates of land-use change, and the occurrence of remarkable land-use shifts. Environmental factors were identified as the main correlates of current mammalian richness, but several proposed metrics of past land-use were also relevant predictors. Overall, these results highlight the likely existence of a land-use legacy in some regions of the world that has influenced the distribution of extant mammals, particularly of those currently classified as threatened. Even if we cannot change that legacy, our results show that we need to account for past human impacts to understand present biodiversity patterns and, arguably, to guide future actions.
Topics: Threatened species (51%)

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The legacy of past human land use in
current patterns of mammal distribution
Article
Accepted Version
Polaina, E., González-Suárez, M. and Revilla, E. (2019) The
legacy of past human land use in current patterns of mammal
distribution. Ecography, 42 (10). pp. 1623-1635. ISSN 0906-
7590 doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/ecog.04406 Available at
https://centaur.reading.ac.uk/84799/
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1
The legacy of past human land use in current patterns of mammal distribution 1
2
Ester Polaina (e.polaina@gmail.com) 3
Conservation Biology Department, Doñana Biological Station-CSIC, Seville, Spain 4
Ecology Department, Swedish University of Agricultural Science, Uppsala, Sweden 5
ORCID ID: 0000-0002-5064-5881 6
7
Manuela González-Suárez (manuela.gonzalez@reading.ac.uk) 8
Conservation Biology Department, Doñana Biological Station-CSIC, Seville, Spain 9
School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, UK 10
ORCID ID: 0000-0001-5069-8900 11
12
Eloy Revilla (revilla@ebd.csic.es) 13
Conservation Biology Department, Doñana Biological Station-CSIC, Seville, Spain 14
ORCID ID: 0000-0001-5534-5581 15
16
Corresponding author: Ester Polaina 17
18
Acknowledgements 19
We thank the IUCN Red List team for making and maintaining its database freely 20
available online. We also acknowledge the Laboratory for Anthropogenic Landscape 21
Ecology, directed by Dr. Erle C. Ellis, for publicly sharing anthropogenic land cover 22
change datasets. This work was funded by the program ‘Junta para la Ampliación de 23
Estudios’ (JAEPre022. BOE-A-2011-10745, co-funded by the European Social Fund), 24
the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/ grant n° 235897 and 25

2
EU BON project nº 308454), and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation co-26
funded by FEDER (CGL2009-07301/BOS, CGL2012-35931/BOS and JCI-2011-27
09158). 28
29

3
Abstract 30
Multiple environmental factors are known to shape species distributions at the global 31
scale, including climate and topography, but understanding current extents of 32
occurrence and biodiversity patterns requires considering anthropogenic factors as well. 33
Numerous studies have explored the relationship between contemporary human 34
activities and different biodiversity metrics, but the influence of past activities, such as 35
land-use, remains poorly understood despite being one of the oldest human impacts. 36
Here we evaluate the role of past land-use modifications in the current distribution and 37
conservation status of mammals worldwide using spatial data characterizing human 38
land use from c.B.C.6000 to c.A.D.2000. First, we applied a clustering method that 39
revealed three generalized past human land-use trajectories that represent low-, recently- 40
and steadily-used areas widely represented across the globe. Second, we fitted boosted 41
regression trees to predict total and threatened mammalian richness, globally and within 42
trajectory-clusters, testing the role of environmental factors and multiple human land-43
use metrics reflecting: total used area at different time spans, rates of land-use change, 44
and the occurrence of remarkable land-use shifts. Environmental factors were identified 45
as the main correlates of current mammalian richness, but several proposed metrics of 46
past land-use were also relevant predictors. Overall, these results highlight the likely 47
existence of a land-use legacy in some regions of the world that has influenced the 48
distribution of extant mammals, particularly of those currently classified as threatened. 49
Even if we cannot change that legacy, our results show that we need to account for past 50
human impacts to understand present biodiversity patterns and, arguably, to guide future 51
actions. 52
53

4
Keywords: land-use history, land-use trajectory, KK10 model, IUCN, threatened 54
species, distribution, cluster analysis 55

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Citations
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Journal Article
Erle C. Ellis1Institutions (1)
Abstract: Human populations and their use of land have transformed most of the terrestrial biosphere into anthropogenic biomes (anthromes), causing a variety of novel ecological patterns and processes to emerge. To assess whether human populations and their use of land have directly altered the terrestrial biosphere sufficiently to indicate that the Earth system has entered a new geological epoch, spatially explicit global estimates of human populations and their use of land were analysed across the Holocene for their potential to induce irreversible novel transformation of the terrestrial biosphere. Human alteration of the terrestrial biosphere has been significant for more than 8000 years. However, only in the past century has the majority of the terrestrial biosphere been transformed into intensively used anthromes with predominantly novel anthropogenic ecological processes. At present, even were human populations to decline substantially or use of land become far more efficient, the current global extent, duration, type and intensity of human transformation of ecosystems have already irreversibly altered the terrestrial biosphere at levels sufficient to leave an unambiguous geological record differing substantially from that of the Holocene or any prior epoch. It remains to be seen whether the anthropogenic biosphere will be sustained and continue to evolve.

578 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: Land-use change is considered the greatest threat to nature, having caused worldwide declines in the abundance, diversity, and health of species and ecosystems. Despite increasing research on this global change driver, there are still challenges to forming an effective synthesis. The estimated impact of land-use change on biodiversity can depend on location, research methods, and taxonomic focus, with recent global meta-analyses reaching disparate conclusions. Here, we critically appraise this research body and our ability to reach a reliable consensus. We employ named entity recognition to analyze more than 4000 abstracts, alongside full reading of 100 randomly selected papers. We highlight the broad range of study designs and methodologies used; the most common being local space-for-time comparisons that classify land use in situ. Species metrics including abundance, distribution, and diversity were measured more frequently than complex responses such as demography, vital rates, and behavior. We identified taxonomic biases, with vertebrates well represented while detritivores were largely missing. Omitting this group may hinder our understanding of how land-use change affects ecosystem feedback. Research was heavily biased toward temperate forested biomes in North America and Europe, with warmer regions being acutely underrepresented despite offering potential insights into the future effects of land-use change under novel climates. Various land-use histories were covered, although more research in understudied regions including Africa and the Middle East is required to capture regional differences in the form of current and historical land-use practices. Failure to address these challenges will impede our global understanding of land-use change impacts on biodiversity, limit the reliability of future projections and have repercussions for the conservation of threatened species. Beyond identifying literature biases, we highlight the research priorities and data gaps that need urgent attention and offer perspectives on how to move forward.

2 citations


Posted ContentDOI
24 Mar 2019-bioRxiv
TL;DR: This work quantifies the relative importance of human land use from ∼5000 years ago to predict the current assemblage of terrestrial mammals in biogeographical regions across the Earth and highlights the far-reaching effect that past anthropogenic actions have had on the organization of biodiversity globally.
Abstract: Understanding how the world’s biodiversity is organized and how it changes across geographic regions is critical to predicting the effects of global change1. Ecologists have long documented that the world’s terrestrial fauna is organized hierarchically in large regions - or realms - and continental scale subregions2–6, with boundaries shaped by geographic and climatic factors2,7. However, little is known about how global biodiversity is assembled below the continental level and the factors, including the potential role of human impacts, triggering faunistic differences as the biogeographical scale becomes smaller. Here we show that the hierarchical organization of global zoogeographical regions extends coherently below the region level to reach a local scale, and that multiple determinants act across varying spatial and temporal scales. Among these determinants, anthropogenic land use during the Late Holocene stands out showing a footprint across biogeographical scales and explaining 22% of the faunistic differences among the larger bioregions. The Late Holocene coincided with the development of large cities and substantial transformation of ecosystems into agricultural land8,9. Our results show that past human activity has played a role in the global organization of present-day animal assemblages, leaving a detectable signal that warns us about significant time-lag effects of human-mediated impacts on biodiversity.

2 citations


Cites background from "The legacy of past human land use i..."

  • ...The mammalian distributions that we know today are not only a reflection of the most recent human actions but also those exerted during the last few millennia (Faurby and Svenning, 2015; Polaina et al., 2020)....

    [...]


Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: This work was supported by the projects ‘Developing tools to unify range dynamics and community-level processes into a single analytical framework’ (cooperation project Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas-Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientifico e Tecnologico CSIC-CNPq P2011BR0071) and ‘Predicting diversity variations across scales through process-based models linking com-munity ecology and biogeography’ (Pesquisador Visitante Especial CNPq, PVE314523/2014-6). AMCS was supported by a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship (IEF 331623 ‘COMMSTRUCT’), by a ‘Juan de la Cierva’ Fellowship (IJCI-2014-19502) funded by the cur-rent Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovacion y Universidades, by Universidad de Alcala, through a travel grant within the ‘Ayudas de movilidad de personal docente y personal investigador’ program, and by the Portuguese Fundacao para a Ciencia e a Tecnologia (contract CEEIND/03425/2017). RL’s research is funded by CNPq (grant #306694/2018-2). This paper is a contribution of the Instituto Nacional de Ciencia e Tecnologia (INCT) in Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity Conservation funded by Brazilian Ministerio da Ciencia, Tecnologia, Inovacoes e Comunicacoes, CNPq and Fundacao de Amparo a Pesquisa do estado de Goias (grant MCTIC/CNPq/FAPEG 465610/2014-5).

1 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
Richard T. Corlett1Institutions (1)
Abstract: Mammals are an obvious choice for analyses of global biodiversity patterns. They are not too diverse, disproportionately well studied, and even nonspecialists will be interested in the results. They are also fairly good indicators of overall vertebrate diversity (1). Moreover, the limited ability of most mammals to cross oceanic barriers and the lack of direct land connections between the Neotropics (South and Central America), Africa, Madagascar, Asia, and Australasia (Australia and New Guinea) provide an opportunity to compare more or less independent evolutionary responses to similar tropical and subtropical environments (2). Such comparisons are complicated, however, by the widespread impacts of climate change and human activities over the last 100,000 y, from the Late Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions to the ongoing consequences of recent human population growth and economic development across the tropics (3). Understanding the reasons for the similarities and differences within and between regions is of more than just theoretical interest, since it may also have practical importance for conservation management. In PNAS, Rowan et al. (4) address this issue and attempt to determine the relative importance of different factors in driving patterns of mammalian biodiversity across the tropics and subtropics. They excluded smaller species (<500 g) from their analyses, greatly reducing the scale of the task, since most mammals are small rodents or bats, while greatly increasing the quality of the data available, since larger species are easier to find and study. They were then able to assemble an impressive dataset consisting of 515 checklists of medium and large mammals from across four zoogeographic realms: Afrotropical, Indomalayan, Malagasy (Madagascar), and Neotropical. They excluded tropical Australasia, presumably because there were too few complete checklists from this realm. The final dataset included 852 species, many of which are now under threat from hunting and/or habit loss. For each community, they … [↵][1]1Email: corlett{at}xtbg.org.cn. [1]: #xref-corresp-1-1

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"The legacy of past human land use i..." refers methods in this paper

  • ...To synthetize trajectory trends in longitudinal data of global land use we employed a clustering method that incorporates a k-means algorithm (Celeux and Govaert 1992) implemented in the kml package ('kml' function; Genolini et al. 2015) in R v.3.2.3 (R Core Team 2015)....

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"The legacy of past human land use i..." refers methods in this paper

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13 Feb 2015-Science
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