Alleviating spatial conflict between people and biodiversity.
ABSTRACT Human settlements are expanding in species-rich regions and pose a serious threat to biodiversity conservation. We quantify the degree to which this threat manifests itself in two contrasting continents, Australia and North America, and suggest how it can be substantially alleviated. Human population density has a strong positive correlation with species richness in Australia for birds, mammals, amphibians, and butterflies (but not reptiles) and in North America for all five taxa. Nevertheless, conservation investments could secure locations that harbor almost all species while greatly reducing overlap with densely populated regions. We compared two conservation-planning scenarios that each aimed to represent all species at least once in a minimum set of sampling sites. The first scenario assigned equal cost to each site (ignoring differences in human population density); the second assigned a cost proportional to the site's human population density. Under the equal-cost scenario, 13-40% of selected sites occurred where population density values were highest (in the top decile). However, this overlap was reduced to as low as 0%, and in almost all cases to <10%, under the population-cost scenario, when sites of high population density were avoided where possible. Moreover, this reduction of overlap was achieved with only small increases in the total amount of area requiring protection. As densely populated regions continue to expand rapidly and drive up land values, the strategic conservation investments of the kind highlighted in our analysis are best made now.
Article: Linking social norms to efficient conservation investment in payments for ecosystem services.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: An increasing amount of investment has been devoted to protecting and restoring ecosystem services worldwide. The efficiency of conservation investments, including payments for ecosystem services (PES), has been found to be affected by biological, political, economic, demographic, and social factors, but little is known about the effects of social norms at the neighborhood level. As a first attempt to quantify the effects of social norms, we studied the effects of a series of possible factors on people's intentions of maintaining forest on their Grain-to-Green Program (GTGP) land plots if the program ends. GTGP is one of the world's largest PES programs and plays an important role in global conservation efforts. Our study was conducted in China's Wolong Nature Reserve, home to the world-famous endangered giant pandas and >4,500 farmers. We found that, in addition to conservation payment amounts and program duration, social norms at the neighborhood level had significant impacts on program re-enrollment, suggesting that social norms can be used to leverage participation to enhance the sustainability of conservation benefits from PES programs. Moreover, our results demonstrate that economic and demographic trends also have profound implications for sustainable conservation. Thus, social norms should be incorporated with economic and demographic trends for efficient conservation investments.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 07/2009; 106(28):11812-7. · 9.68 Impact Factor
Article: Species Richness of Orthoptera Along Gradients of Agricultural Intensification and Urbanisation[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: The relationship between species-richness of Orthoptera and remotely sensed land cover was investigated at a grain size of 100 km2 within an area of 9,900 km2 in central southern England, using species data extracted from county and national atlases. Gradients in landscape composition, identified using multivariate ordination, reflected agricultural intensification (associated with increasing acreage of arable crops) and urbanisation. The number of species declined as the area under arable crops increased, yet even in the most agriculturally intensive grid-squares there appeared to be sufficient nonarable land to support all species. A range of factors such as fragmentation and degradation of nonarable habitats may become more important as the area of cropped land increases. Investigation at greater spatial resolution is needed to confirm this hypothesis. No relationship was found between species richness and urbanisation, but it was concluded that the extent of urban development was too limited to enable detailed investigation of this phenomena. The study demonstrates that coarse-grained species data within county and national atlases, combined with remotely-sensed land cover data, can be useful in detecting and interpreting spatial variation in orthopteran species diversity at the regional scale. The relationship between species richness and land cover quantifies past human impacts and suggests the approach may be useful for monitoring and interpreting future changes.Journal of Orthoptera Research 02/2010; 19(Dec 2010):293-301.
Article: A comparative analysis of components incorporated in conservation priority assessments: a case study based on South African species of terrestrial mammals[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Assessing the risk of extinction to species forms an essential part of regional conservation initiatives that facilitate the allocation of limited resources for conservation. The present study conducted conservation priority assessments for 221 South African terrestrial mammal species using existing data sources. These data sources included regional IUCN Red List assessments, regional geographic distributions, relative endemism, taxonomic distinctiveness, relative body mass and human density. These components were in turn subjected to two quantitative conservation priority assessment techniques in an attempt to determine regional conservation priorities for South African terrestrial mammals. The top 22 mammal species (i.e. the top 10% of assessed species) identified by both regional conservation priority assessment techniques to be of conservation priority, consistently identified 13 South African terrestrial mammal species to be of high conservation priority. Seven of the 13 species were from the order Afrosoricida, two species from the order Eulipotyphla, with one species each from the orders Chiroptera, Lagomorpha, Pholidota, and Rodentia. More importantly, 12 of the 13 mammal species were also listed as threatened in the 2004 Red Data Book of South African Mammals. These results suggest that the two conservation priority assessment techniques used in the present study may represent a practical and quantitative method for determining regional conservation priorities, and include measures that represent vulnerability, conservation value, and threat.African Zoology 01/2009; · 0.90 Impact Factor
Alleviating spatial conflict between people
Gary W. Luck*†‡, Taylor H. Ricketts†§, Gretchen C. Daily†, and Marc Imhoff¶
*The Johnstone Center, Charles Sturt University, P.O. Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia;†Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University, 371 Serra
Mall, Stanford, CA 94305-5020;§Conservation Science Program, World Wildlife Fund, 1250 24th Street NW, Washington, DC 20037; and¶Biospheric Sciences
Branch, Code 923, Laboratory for Terrestrial Physics, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771
Communicated by Paul R. Ehrlich, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, November 3, 2003 (received for review June 3, 2003)
Human settlements are expanding in species-rich regions and pose
a serious threat to biodiversity conservation. We quantify the
degree to which this threat manifests itself in two contrasting
substantially alleviated. Human population density has a strong
positive correlation with species richness in Australia for birds,
mammals, amphibians, and butterflies (but not reptiles) and in
North America for all five taxa. Nevertheless, conservation invest-
ments could secure locations that harbor almost all species while
greatly reducing overlap with densely populated regions. We
compared two conservation-planning scenarios that each aimed to
represent all species at least once in a minimum set of sampling
sites. The first scenario assigned equal cost to each site (ignoring
differences in human population density); the second assigned a
cost proportional to the site’s human population density. Under
the equal-cost scenario, 13–40% of selected sites occurred where
population density values were highest (in the top decile). How-
ever, this overlap was reduced to as low as 0%, and in almost all
cases to <10%, under the population-cost scenario, when sites of
high population density were avoided where possible. Moreover,
this reduction of overlap was achieved with only small increases in
the total amount of area requiring protection. As densely popu-
lated regions continue to expand rapidly and drive up land values,
the strategic conservation investments of the kind highlighted in
our analysis are best made now.
(1–5), yet little attention has been given to the conservation
implications of where people live. Human settlement patterns
impact biodiversity directly (e.g., habitat alteration) and indi-
rectly by influencing land prices and other costs of achieving
conservation (6–9). Human population density is positively
correlated with deforestation in tropical forests (10, 11), abun-
dance of invasive species (12, 13), and extinction rates and the
proportion of threatened species in important taxa (14–18).
These studies suggest that human population density may be a
useful surrogate measure of the impact on biodiversity of a range
of activities associated with human settlements (e.g., habitat
clearance, waste disposal, recreation, and hunting). There is an
urgent need, therefore, to characterize the level of spatial
overlap between densely populated and biodiverse areas and to
evaluate options for alleviating potential conflict (19–21).
he size, growth rate, and consumption patterns of the global
human population are significant threats to biodiversity
Population Density and Taxon Correlations. We investigated the
spatial congruence between human population density and
species distributions of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians,
and butterflies across Australia (including Tasmania and Kan-
garoo, Bathurst, and Melville islands) and North America (the
continental United States and Canada). We examined broad
correlative relationships between human population density and
(i) species richness, (ii) the percentage of threatened species, and
(iii) the percentage of species with restricted geographic distri-
butions (the latter two groups are of particular conservation
concern) (22, 23).
For Australia, data were collected at a spatial resolution
of 1°-grid cells, from The Atlas of Australian Birds (www.
birdsaustralia.com.au?atlas?index.html) and published sources
(24–26). Threatened species were those listed nationally as
endangered or vulnerable by the Australian Federal Govern-
ment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Con-
servation Act 1999 (www.erin.gov.au?biodiversity?threatened?
species??index.html). Species with restricted geographic
distributions were defined as those that occurred in four or fewer
grid cells (mostly contiguous). For North America, data were
collected across 110 ecoregions (see ref. 27 for details of
data acquisition). Threatened species were those listed as ‘‘crit-
ically imperiled,’’ ‘‘imperiled,’’ and ‘‘vulnerable’’ by NatureServe
(2001) (www.natureserve.org?explorer). Restricted species in
North America were defined as those occupying only one
ecoregion or those with a total range of ?50,000 km2. We
divided the number of threatened or restricted species in each
grid cell or ecoregion by the total number of species therein to
obtain a percentage of threatened or restricted species (i.e., a
normalized index). Only native terrestrial or freshwater species
were included. Estimates of human population density for 1995
were obtained from the Gridded Population of the World,
Version 2 (http:??sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu?plue?gpw?
We used the following index (modified from ref. 6), which
combines all five taxa, weighted equally, into a single measure of
overall species richness:
where Gi(e)is the number of species of group i in the grid cell or
ecoregion, and Gi(t)is the total number of species of group i in
the Australian or North American databases. This index reports
the average proportion of the continental species pool that is
found in a given ecoregion or grid cell and weights each taxon
equally to diminish the influence of species-rich taxa.
As grid cells and ecoregions are contiguous, data are likely to
be spatially autocorrelated, thereby reducing P values by over-
estimating degrees of freedom (28). Therefore, we do not
include P values in our analyses, instead using correlation
coefficients (which are unaffected by spatial autocorrelation) to
represent the strength of association between variables. Non-
parametric Spearman rank correlations were used because the
distributions of most data were heavily skewed.
Complementarity Analysis. We examined the degree to which
careful location of conservation efforts could alleviate spatial
conflict between human settlements and biodiversity by using a
‡To whom correspondence should be sent at the*address. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2003 by The National Academy of Sciences of the USA
January 6, 2004 ?
vol. 101 ?
complementarity analysis. Even with substantial congruence
between human population density and species richness, certain
conservation goals still may be achieved if target areas are
carefully selected. For example, if species occur in multiple grid
cells or ecoregions, it may be possible to select a set of cells or
ecoregions that avoid densely populated areas yet still contain
most species. We investigated this issue in Australia (where data
were most amenable to this approach) for each taxon and all taxa
combined. We used the simulated annealing algorithm in the
SITES V. 1.0 software program (which is based on SPEXAN reserve
selection software; see refs. 29 and 30 for details) with 1,000,000
iterations and 10 repeat runs and selected the best run.
in a minimum set of grid cells under two scenarios: (i) ignoring
human population density by assuming that the cost of acquiring
each grid cell was equal and (ii) assigning each grid cell an
acquisition cost proportional to its human population density (i.e.,
avoiding cells of high population density where possible). For both
scenarios, we recorded the percentage of selected grid cells in the
optimum set that also ranked in the top 10% for human population
density and the number of cells required to meet the conservation
goal (i.e., representation of each species at least once).
Results and Discussion
Population Density and Taxon Correlations. Human population
density was strongly correlated with the overall species richness
of all taxa combined in both continents (Fig. 1), and with the
richness of each taxon except reptiles in Australia (Fig. 2A). The
negative correlation with Australian reptiles probably occurred
and semiarid regions in the center of the continent. Our results
emphasize two crucial points. First, the most biodiverse regions
of each continent are also the most threatened by high human
population densities. Second, the level of spatial congruence
differs among taxa, so relying on popular indicator taxa (e.g.,
birds) to set conservation policy may lead to failure (31).
Australia and North America differed markedly in the rela-
tionship between human population density and percent of
threatened species. In Australia, population density was posi-
tively correlated only with threatened reptiles and birds, whereas
all threatened taxa in North America had relatively strong
positive correlations with population density (Fig. 2B). In con-
and the percentage of species with restricted geographic ranges
were positive for all taxa in Australia, and for each taxon except
birds in North America (Fig. 2C). Correlations between human
population density and threatened species or those with re-
stricted distributions are of particular concern because these
species are likely to be especially susceptible to the impacts
associated with human settlements (22, 23, 32).
It is possible that biogeographical relationships involving species
richness may be dominated by wide-ranging species that contribute
the majority of distribution records (33). If these wide-ranging
species are largely responsible for the patterns we find above, the
congruence between human populations and biodiversity may be
North America (n ? 109). Error bars represent one standard error.
Correlations between human population density and the richness of
sity and weighted species richness for all taxa in Australia (Upper) and North
Correlations between [logarithm10(Log10)] human population den-
Luck et al.
January 6, 2004 ?
vol. 101 ?
no. 1 ?
less of a concern, because these species could potentially avoid
conflict in less impacted areas of their broad range.
To test this suggestion, we repeated the above correlations
with each taxon split into range-size quartiles (based on the
methods of ref. 33) and found remarkably consistent patterns.
For almost all taxa, there were strong positive correlations
between human population density and species richness in each
range-size quartile (Fig. 3), contrary to the findings of ref. 33 for
birds in sub-Saharan Africa. The exceptions were mammals
(Australia and North America) and reptiles (Australia). Only for
reptiles in Australia did wide-ranging species have a substantial
impact on the overall result. Positive correlations were recorded
for the first (smallest) to third range-size quartiles (Fig. 3A), but
the strong negative correlation with wide-ranging reptile species
in Australia led to a slightly negative correlation overall (Fig.
2A). Clearly, the influence of wide-ranging species does not
dominate our principal results; human population distribution is
a threat to the majority of species regardless of range size.
Sampling bias also may inflate observed relationships between
species richness and human population density, because more
surveys are likely to be conducted close to population centers. For
birds in Australia (the only taxon for which suitable data were
available), we found that the number of surveys was indeed highest
in densely populated areas (rs? 0.652, n ? 772). However, after
controlling for sampling intensity with partial correlations (34),
there was still a relatively strong positive correlation between
human population density and bird species richness (rs? 0.272). In
Australia, sampling intensity for all taxa is probably lowest in the
arid inland regions, but these generally species-poor regions likely
would not yield many more additional species with further sam-
pling. Sampling bias is unlikely to be a problem in the North
and reasonably well mapped (31).
Complementarity Analysis. Under the first conservation planning
scenario, which assumed equal acquisition cost for each grid cell
(i.e., ignoring human population density), 13–40% of the cells in
the selected set were in the highest decile of population density
values. However, when human population density was explicitly
factored into the selection algorithm, the overlap between
population density and species distribution was reduced to as low
as 0%, and in almost all cases to ?10% (Fig. 4A). Moreover, this
remarkable reduction in overlap was achieved with only small
increases in the amount of area requiring protection (Fig. 4B).
Therefore, it may be possible to reduce conflicts between
biodiversity conservation and human settlements, with only a
small increase in the total conservation area required, if factors
such as population density are explicitly considered when as-
sessing conservation options.
The threats that human populations pose to biodiversity are
well recognized, and the positive correlation between human
population density and species richness occurs in both develop-
ing (20) and developed (21) regions. Surprisingly, this realization
is not commonly translated explicitly into the conservation
planning process (but see refs. 20 and 35–37). The results of our
study indicate that there may be substantial opportunities for
protecting biodiversity, despite the overlap between human
settlements and species-rich regions.
represents the smallest range size. Error bars represent one standard error.
Correlations between human population density and range-size quartiles for each taxon in Australia (A) and North America (B). The first quartile
www.pnas.org?cgi?doi?10.1073?pnas.2237148100Luck et al.
Three caveats deserve mention here. First, completely avoid-
ing this conflict is unlikely because numerous range-restricted
species occur in densely populated areas. Therefore, it remains
an imperative that conservation also occurs where most people
live. Second, in some places site selection may be further
restricted by substantially modified regions with low population
density (e.g., agricultural landscapes where most of the native
habitat has been cleared), and this effect also needs to be
considered when developing conservation strategies. Finally,
consideration should be given to biodiverse areas with low
current population densities but rapid population growth rates,
because they represent areas where biodiversity is likely to
experience substantial threats in the future (9).
The results of our study present a clear message to conservation
planners. In addition to the standard biological data that are
used to guide planning decisions (38), human settlement pat-
terns must be explicitly considered as factors from the very
beginning of planning processes. This consideration is crucial to
reduce the conflict between population density and biodiversity
and to minimize the cost of conservation (9). As human popu-
lation density increases, land prices inevitably rise, making
conservation an expensive exercise near human settlements.
Therefore, considering both biological and demographic data
can help to ensure effective conservation at the least cost.
Ultimately, conserving a single representative sample of each
species is a poor substitute for the protection of ecosystem
processes, viable species populations, and other elements of
biodiversity (39–42) that are often included in many systematic
conservation plans (43). Our study represents a broad-brush
approach designed to illustrate the threat posed to biodiversity
conservation by human settlement patterns. Predicted popula-
tion growth in Australia, North America, and other regions
underscores the immediate need to develop effective conserva-
tion strategies that alleviate the spatial conflict between people
We thank P. and H. Bing for financial support; G. Barret, M. Braby,
G. Ceballos, H. Cogger, and R. Poulter for facilitating access to
distribution data; S. Bailey, J. Fay, and A. McMillan for assistance with
geographical information systems application and production of sam-
pling maps; M. Jemente and R. Phelps for assistance with data
collection; and T. Allnutt, A. Balmford, C. Boggs, N. Burgess, P.
Ehrlich, W. Jetz, C. Loucks, H. Possingham, T. Sisk, and an anony-
mous reviewer for helpful comments on the manuscript. This work was
supported by the Moore Family Foundation, the Koret Foundation,
and the Winslow Foundation.
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