Both natural and anthropogenic factors are important in determining a species’ risk of extinction. Little work has been done, however, to quantify the magnitude of current anthropogenic influences on the extinction process. The purpose of this study is to determine the extent to which measures of the intensity of human activity are related to the global variability of two measures of species’ susceptibility to extinction. We observed six indices of human activities in 90 countries, and we tested their relationships to the proportion of threatened bird and mammal species in each country, as well as to mammalian population density. After correcting for area effects, latitudinal diversity gradients, and body size (for population density), 28 to 50% of the remaining variation was statistically attributable to anthropogenic variables. Different measures of anthropogenic influence were most closely related to extinction risk in birds and mammals. Human population density was the variable most closely related to the proportion of threatened bird species per country, whereas per capita GNP was more important for mammal species. Mammalian population density strongly correlates with the extent of protected area per country. Contrary to suggestions in earlier literature, our work does not support the hypothesis that habitat loss is a prime contributor to species loss because frequencies of threatened birds and mammals are not closely related to patterns of land use.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Dec 1, 1995
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