Drivers of habitat availability for terrestrial mammals: Unravelling the role of livestock, land conversion and intrinsic traits in the past 50 years

Michela Pacifici*, Andrea Cristiano, Maria Lumbierres, Mauro Lucherini, David Mallon, Erik Meijaard, Sergio Solari, Marcelo F. Tognelli, Jerrold L. Belant, Thomas M. Butynski, Drew Cronin, Jean‐Pierre d'Huart, Daniele Da Re, Yvonne A. de Jong, Arjun Dheer, Li Fei, Sonia Gallina, John M. Goodrich, Abishek Harihar, Carlos A. Lopez GonzalezSarah R. B. King, Rebecca L. Lewison, Fabiano R. de Melo, Constanza Napolitano, Dede Aulia Rahman, Phillip T. Robinson, Timothy Robinson, Carlo Rondinini, Gono Semiadi, Karen Strier, Mauricio Talebi, William Andrew Taylor, Christine Thiel‐Bender, Nelson Ting, Ingrid Wiesel

*Corresponding author for this work

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The global decline of terrestrial species is largely due to the degradation, loss and fragmentation of their habitats. The conversion of natural ecosystems for cropland, rangeland, forest products and human infrastructure are the primary causes of habitat deterioration. Due to the paucity of data on the past distribution of species and the scarcity of fine‐scale habitat conversion maps, however, accurate assessment of the recent effects of habitat degradation, loss and fragmentation on the range of mammals has been near impossible. We aim to assess the proportions of available habitat within the lost and retained parts of mammals' distribution ranges, and to identify the drivers of habitat availability. We produced distribution maps for 475 terrestrial mammals for the range they occupied 50 years ago and compared them to current range maps. We then calculated the differences in the percentage of ‘area of habitat’ (habitat available to a species within its range) between the lost and retained range areas. Finally, we ran generalized linear mixed models to identify which variables were more influential in determining habitat availability in the lost and retained parts of the distribution ranges. We found that 59% of species had a lower proportion of available habitat in the lost range compared to the retained range, thus hypothesizing that habitat loss could have contributed to range declines. The most important factors negatively affecting habitat availability were the conversion of land to rangeland and high density of livestock. Significant intrinsic traits were those related to reproductive timing and output, habitat breadth and medium body size. Our findings emphasize the importance of implementing conservation strategies to mitigate the impacts caused by human activities on the habitats of mammals, and offer evidence indicating which species have the potential to reoccupy portions of their former range if other threats cease to occur.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6900-6911
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number24
Early online date7 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023

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