Stuart H M Butchart

University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

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Publications (99)701.17 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The effects of climate change on biodiversity are increasingly well documented, and many methods have been developed to assess species' vulnerability to climatic changes, both ongoing and projected in the coming decades. To minimize global biodiversity losses, conservationists need to identify those species that are likely to be most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In this Review, we summarize different currencies used for assessing species' climate change vulnerability. We describe three main approaches used to derive these currencies (correlative, mechanistic and trait-based), and their associated data requirements, spatial and temporal scales of application and modelling methods. We identify strengths and weaknesses of the approaches and highlight the sources of uncertainty inherent in each method that limit projection reliability. Finally, we provide guidance for conservation practitioners in selecting the most appropriate approach(es) for their planning needs and highlight priority areas for further assessments.
    Nature Climate Change 02/2015; 5:215-224. · 15.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Biodiversity is declining, with direct and indirect effects on ecosystem functions and services that are poorly quantified. Here we develop the first global assessment of trends in pollinators, focusing on pollinating birds and mammals. A Red List Index for these species shows that, overall, pollinating bird and mammal species are deteriorating in status, with more species moving towards extinction than away from it. On average, 2.4 species per year have moved one Red List category towards extinction in recent decades, representing a substantial increase in extinction risk across this set of species. This may be impacting the delivery of benefits to people that these species provide. We recommend that the index is expanded to include taxonomic groups that contribute more significantly to pollination, such as bees, wasps and butterflies, thereby giving a more complete picture of the state of pollinating species worldwide.
    Conservation Letters 02/2015; · 5.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Local stakeholders at the important but vulnerable Centre Hills on Montserrat consider that the continued presence of feral livestock (particularly goats and pigs) may lead to widespread replacement of the reserve’s native vegetation by invasive alien trees (Java plum and guava), and consequent negative impacts on native animal species. Since 2009, a hunting programme to control the feral livestock has been in operation. However long-term funding is not assured. Here, we estimate the effect of feral livestock control on ecosystem services provided by the forest to evaluate whether the biodiversity conservation rationale for continuation of the control programme is supported by an economic case. A new practical tool (Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment) was employed to measure and compare ecosystem service provision between two states of the reserve (i.e. presence and absence of feral livestock control) to estimate the net consequences of the hunting programme on ecosystem services provided by the forest. Based on this we estimate that cessation of feral livestock management would substantially reduce the net benefits provided by the site, including a 46 % reduction in nature-based tourism (from $419,000 to $228,000) and 36 % reduction in harvested wild meat (from $205,000 to $132,000). The overall net benefit generated from annual ecosystem service flows associated with livestock control in the reserve, minus the management cost, was $214,000 per year. We conclude that continued feral livestock control is important for maintaining the current level of ecosystem services provided by the reserve.
    Biological Invasions 01/2015; 17(1):461-475. · 2.72 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To address the ongoing global biodiversity crisis, governments have set strategic objectives and have adopted indicators to monitor progress towards their achievement. Projecting the likely impacts on biodiversity of different policy decisions allows decision makers to understand if and how these targets can be met. We projected trends in two widely used indicators of population abundance (the Living Planet Index; LPI) and extinction risk (the Red List Index; RLI) under different climate and land-use change scenarios. Testing these on terrestrial carnivore and ungulate species, we found that both indicators decline steadily, and by 2050, under a business-as-usual scenario, the LPI declines by 18–35% while extinction risk increases for 8–23% of the species, depending on assumptions about species responses to climate change. Business-as-usual will therefore fail CBD target 12 of improving the conservation status of known threatened species. An alternative sustainable development scenario reduces both extinction risk and population losses compared with Business-as-usual and could lead to population increases. Our approach to model species responses to global changes brings the focus of scenarios directly to the species level, thus taking into account an additional dimension of biodiversity and paving the way for including stronger ecological foundations into future biodiversity scenario assessments.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Conservation Letters 01/2015; · 5.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Governments have committed to conserving ≥17% of terrestrial and ≥10% of marine environments globally, especially “areas of particular importance for biodiversity” through “ecologically representative” Protected Area (PA) systems or other “area-based conservation measures,” while individual countries have committed to conserve 3–50% of their land area. We estimate that PAs currently cover 14.6% of terrestrial and 2.8% of marine extent, but 59–68% of ecoregions, 77–78% of important sites for biodiversity, and 57% of 25,380 species have inadequate coverage. The existing 19.7 million km2 terrestrial PA network needs only 3.3 million km2 to be added to achieve 17% terrestrial coverage. However, it would require nearly doubling to achieve, cost-efficiently, coverage targets for all countries, ecoregions, important sites, and species. Poorer countries have the largest relative shortfalls. Such extensive and rapid expansion of formal PAs is unlikely to be achievable. Greater focus is therefore needed on alternative approaches, including community- and privately managed sites and other effective area-based conservation measures.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Conservation Letters 01/2015; · 5.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Global and project-level biodiversity indicators have received considerable attention, but indicators of the conservation actions and impacts of programmes and institutions appear to be under-developed. The IUCN Red List Index (RLI) has potential to be a useful indicator at an organizational-level to evaluate long-term impact of conservation on the extinction risk of species, thereby supporting institutional decision-making and communications. However, it has not yet been tested for its utility in tracking changes in extinction risk of a set of species targeted specifically by an individual conservation agency. Here, we examine the feasibility of using the RLI as one metric of the conservation impact of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, a conservation charity which runs multi-decadal programmes on a modest number of globally threatened terrestrial vertebrate species. Of 17 target amphibian, bird and mammal species, eight underwent improvements in Red List category (reductions in extinction risk) owing to conservation. This drove a 67% increase in the value of the Red List Index between 1988 and 2012. This contrasts with a 23% decline in a counterfactual RLI showing projected trends if conservation had been withdrawn in 1988. For organizations that target sets of species with circumscribed geographic distributions and that are regularly assessed by the IUCN Red List, the RLI is a useful indicator for measuring and demonstrating long-term conservation impact to technical and non-technical audiences.
    Biological Conservation 12/2014; 180:84–96. · 4.04 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The world's governments have committed to preventing the extinction of threatened species and improving their conservation status by 2020. However, biodiversity is not evenly distributed across space, and neither are the drivers of its decline, and so different regions face very different challenges. Here, we quantify the contribution of regions and countries towards recent global trends in vertebrate conservation status (as measured by the Red List Index), to guide action towards the 2020 target. We found that>50% of the global deterioration in the conservation status of birds, mammals and amphibians is concentrated in <1% of the surface area, 39/1098 ecoregions (4%) and eight/195 countries (4%) - Australia, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, and the United States. These countries hold a third of global diversity in these vertebrate groups, partially explaining why they concentrate most of the losses. Yet, other megadiverse countries - most notably Brazil (responsible for 10% of species but just 1% of deterioration), plus India and Madagascar - performed better in conserving their share of global vertebrate diversity. Very few countries, mostly island nations (e.g. Cook Islands, Fiji, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Tonga), have achieved net improvements. Per capita wealth does not explain these patterns, with two of the richest countries - United States and Australia - fairing conspicuously poorly. Different countries were affected by different combinations of threats. Reducing global rates of biodiversity loss will require investment in the regions and countries with the highest responsibility for the world's biodiversity, focusing on conserving those species and areas most in peril and on reducing the drivers with the highest impacts.
    PLoS ONE 11/2014; 9(11):e113934. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recognizing the imperiled status of biodiversity and its benefit to human well-being, the world's governments committed in 2010 to take effective and urgent action to halt biodiversity loss through the Convention on Biological Diversity's “Aichi Targets”. These targets, and many conservation programs, require monitoring to assess progress toward specific goals. However, comprehensive and easily understood information on biodiversity trends at appropriate spatial scales is often not available to the policy makers, managers, and scientists who require it. We surveyed conservation stakeholders in three geographically diverse regions of critical biodiversity concern (the Tropical Andes, the African Great Lakes, and the Greater Mekong) and found high demand for biodiversity indicator information but uneven availability. To begin to address this need, we present a biodiversity “dashboard” – a visualization of biodiversity indicators designed to enable tracking of biodiversity and conservation pe
    PLoS ONE 11/2014; 9(11):e112046. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Reports Continued degradation of the natural world and the goods and services it provides to humankind has led to the adoption of numerous international agreements aimed at halting the decline of biodiversity and ecosystem services [e.g., (1)]. The Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversi-ty (CBD) in 2002 committed to a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 (2), which, despite some local successes [e.g. (3)], did not lead to a reduction in the overall rate of decline (4, 5). Re-newed commitments were made in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 (6), which calls for effective and urgent action this decade. These goals are supported by 20 "Aichi Biodiversity Targets" to be met by 2020 at the latest (table S1), covering "pressures" on, "states" of, and "benefits" from biodiversity and "responses" to the biodiversity crisis [sensu (4, 7); table S2]. Objectively quantifying progress toward these international environmental commitments is critical for assessing their impact and efficacy, yet as the mid-point of this 10-year period ap-proaches, progress toward the Aichi Targets has not been quantitatively evaluated. To address this gap, we assembled a broad suite of indicator varia-bles to estimate historical trends and project to 2020 (8). Building on the CBD's indicative list (9), we performed a data scoping of more than 160 potential indicators and reviewed them against five criteria for inclusion, namely: (i) high relevance to a particular Aichi Target and a clear link to the status of biodiversity; (ii) scientific or institutional credibility; (iii) a time series ending after 2010; where unavailable but indicator fills a CONSERVATION TARGETS
    Science 10/2014; · 31.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In 2010 the international community, under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity, agreed on 20 biodiversity-related “Aichi Targets” to be achieved within a decade. We provide a comprehensive mid-term assessment of progress toward these global targets using 55 indicator data sets. We projected indicator trends to 2020 using an adaptive statistical framework that incorporated the specific properties of individual time series. On current trajectories, results suggest that despite accelerating policy and management responses to the biodiversity crisis, the impacts of these efforts are unlikely to be reflected in improved trends in the state of biodiversity by 2020. We highlight areas of societal endeavor requiring additional efforts to achieve the Aichi Targets, and provide a baseline against which to assess future progress.
    Science 10/2014; · 31.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Restoration of degraded land is recognized by the international community as an important way of enhancing both biodiversity and ecosystem services, but more information is needed about its costs and benefits. In Cambridgeshire, U.K., a long-term initiative to convert drained, intensively farmed arable land to a wetland habitat mosaic is driven by a desire both to prevent biodiversity loss from the nationally important Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve (Wicken Fen NNR) and to increase the provision of ecosystem services. We evaluated the changes in ecosystem service delivery resulting from this land conversion, using a new Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment (TESSA) to estimate biophysical and monetary values of ecosystem services provided by the restored wetland mosaic compared with the former arable land. Overall results suggest that restoration is associated with a net gain to society as a whole of $199 ha−1y−1, for a one-off investment in restoration of $2320 ha−1. Restoration has led to an estimated loss of arable production of $2040 ha−1y−1, but estimated gains of $671 ha−1y−1 in nature-based recreation, $120 ha−1y−1 from grazing, $48 ha−1y−1 from flood protection, and a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worth an estimated $72 ha−1y−1. Management costs have also declined by an estimated $1325 ha−1y−1. Despite uncertainties associated with all measured values and the conservative assumptions used, we conclude that there was a substantial gain to society as a whole from this land-use conversion. The beneficiaries also changed from local arable farmers under arable production to graziers, countryside users from towns and villages, and the global community, under restoration. We emphasize that the values reported here are not necessarily transferable to other sites.
    Ecology and Evolution 09/2014; 20(4):3875-3886. · 1.66 Impact Factor
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    09/2014; , ISBN: 978-0-946888-94-8
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    ABSTRACT: Invasive alien species are one of the primary threats to native biodiversity on islands worldwide. Consequently, eradicating invasive species from islands has become a mainstream conservation practice. Deciding which islands have the highest priority for eradication is of strategic importance to allocate limited resources to achieve maximum conservation benefit. Previous island prioritizations focused either on a narrow set of native species or on a small geographic area. We devised a prioritization approach that incorporates all threatened native terrestrial vertebrates and all invasive terrestrial vertebrates occurring on 11 U.K. overseas territories, which comprise over 2000 islands ranging from the sub-Antarctic to the tropics. Our approach includes eradication feasibility and distinguishes between the potential and realistic conservation value of an eradication, which reflects the benefit that would accrue following eradication of either all invasive species or only those species for which eradication techniques currently exist. We identified the top 25 priority islands for invasive species eradication that together would benefit extant populations of 155 native species including 45 globally threatened species. The 5 most valuable islands included the 2 World Heritage islands Gough (South Atlantic) and Henderson (South Pacific) that feature unique seabird colonies, and Anegada, Little Cayman, and Guana Island in the Caribbean that feature a unique reptile fauna. This prioritization can be rapidly repeated if new information or techniques become available, and the approach could be replicated elsewhere in the world. Priorización de Islas para la Erradicación de Vertebrados Invasores en los Territorios Exteriores del Reino Unido.
    Conservation Biology 08/2014; · 4.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Habitat loss and degradation, driven largely by agricultural expansion and intensification, present the greatest immediate threat to biodiversity. Tropical forests harbour among the highest levels of terrestrial species diversity and are likely to experience rapid land-use change in the coming decades. Synthetic analyses of observed responses of species are useful for quantifying how land use affects biodiversity and for predicting outcomes under land-use scenarios. Previous applications of this approach have typically focused on individual taxonomic groups, analysing the average response of the whole community to changes in land use. Here, we incorporate quantitative remotely sensed data about habitats in, to our knowledge, the first worldwide synthetic analysis of how individual species in four major taxonomic groups—invertebrates, ‘herptiles’ (reptiles and amphibians), mammals and birds—respond to multiple human pressures in tropical and sub-tropical forests. We show significant independent impacts of land use, human vegetation offtake, forest cover and human population density on both occurrence and abundance of species, highlighting the value of analysing multiple explanatory variables simultaneously. Responses differ among the four groups considered, and—within birds and mammals—between habitat specialists and habitat generalists and between narrow-ranged and wide-ranged species.
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 08/2014; 281(1792):20141371. · 5.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Governments have agreed to expand the global protected area network from 13% to 17% of the world's land surface by 2020 (Aichi target 11) and to prevent the further loss of known threatened species (Aichi target 12). These targets are interdependent, as protected areas can stem biodiversity loss when strategically located and effectively managed. However, the global protected area estate is currently biased toward locations that are cheap to protect and away from important areas for biodiversity. Here we use data on the distribution of protected areas and threatened terrestrial birds, mammals, and amphibians to assess current and possible future coverage of these species under the convention. We discover that 17% of the 4,118 threatened vertebrates are not found in a single protected area and that fully 85% are not adequately covered (i.e., to a level consistent with their likely persistence). Using systematic conservation planning, we show that expanding protected areas to reach 17% coverage by protecting the cheapest land, even if ecoregionally representative, would increase the number of threatened vertebrates covered by only 6%. However, the nonlinear relationship between the cost of acquiring land and species coverage means that fivefold more threatened vertebrates could be adequately covered for only 1.5 times the cost of the cheapest solution, if cost efficiency and threatened vertebrates are both incorporated into protected area decision making. These results are robust to known errors in the vertebrate range maps. The Convention on Biological Diversity targets may stimulate major expansion of the global protected area estate. If this expansion is to secure a future for imperiled species, new protected areas must be sited more strategically than is presently the case.
    PLoS Biology 06/2014; 12(6):e1001891. · 12.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: AimHabitat loss continues to cause loss of biodiversity. To quantify the effects of land-use change on the diversity and composition of ecological communities – in terms of functional groups – we make modelled estimates of the impact of past and future (to 2050) land-use change on the overall diversity and dietary guild structure of tropical forest bird communities.LocationTropical and subtropical forests (40° S to 40° N).Methods Using a likelihood-based model, we project the impact of land-use intensity on the diversity and functional structure of tropical forest bird communities, including an estimation of uncertainty. To explore the extent to which predicted impacts are determined by the inherent sensitivity of communities because of the traits possessed by the species present, we quantify communities in terms of trait composition and explore relationships between trait composition and diversity/guild loss.ResultsWe estimate that habitat loss has led to an average decrease of 4% in total abundance, but with marked differences across different guilds, leading to substantial changes in community composition: an 11.4% loss of frugivores, 7.8% loss of nectarivores and 7.3% loss of insectivores, and a 4.0% gain of other herbivores. Projected land-use change is predicted to result in average future losses of 1% of total abundance, 1% of each of frugivores, nectarivores and insectivores, but no average change in the abundance of other herbivores. Past and future changes have varied substantially across the biome, owing to variation in land-use change and in the initial trait composition of communities.Main conclusionsWe predict that marked changes in community structure have occurred in the past and will occur in the future, with disproportionate losses of frugivores, nectarivores and insectivores compared with other species; these species are known to provide important ecosystem services. In the past, South America has been particularly strongly affected, while Southeast Asia will experience the strongest impacts in the future.
    Global Ecology and Biogeography 06/2014; · 7.24 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Species' geographical distributions are tracking latitudinal and elevational surface temperature gradients under global climate change. To evaluate the opportunities to track these gradients across space, we provide a first baseline assessment of the steepness of these gradients for the world's terrestrial birds. Within the breeding ranges of 9,014 bird species, we characterized the spatial gradients in temperature along latitude and elevation for all and a subset of bird species, respectively. We summarized these temperature gradients globally for threatened and non-threatened species and determined how their steepness varied based on species' geography (range size, shape, and orientation) and projected changes in temperature under climate change. Elevational temperature gradients were steepest for species in Africa, western North and South America, and central Asia and shallowest in Australasia, insular IndoMalaya, and the Neotropical lowlands. Latitudinal temperature gradients were steepest for extratropical species, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. Threatened species had shallower elevational gradients whereas latitudinal gradients differed little between threatened and non-threatened species. The strength of elevational gradients was positively correlated with projected changes in temperature. For latitudinal gradients, this relationship only held for extratropical species. The strength of latitudinal gradients was better predicted by species' geography, but primarily for extratropical species. Our findings suggest threatened species are associated with shallower elevational temperature gradients, whereas steep latitudinal gradients are most prevalent outside the tropics where fewer bird species occur year-round. Future modeling and mitigation efforts would benefit from the development of finer grain distributional data to ascertain how these gradients are structured within species' ranges, how and why these gradients vary among species, and the capacity of species to utilize these gradients under climate change.
    PLoS ONE 05/2014; 9(5):e98361. · 3.53 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

3k Citations
701.17 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2013
    • University of the Witwatersrand
      • School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences
      Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
  • 2012
    • Charles Darwin University
      • Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods
      Palmerston, Northern Territory, Australia
  • 2010–2012
    • UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom
  • 2009
    • BirdLife International
      Κίτο, Pichincha, Ecuador
  • 2008
    • Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC)
      Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
  • 1995–2003
    • University of Cambridge
      • Department of Zoology
      Cambridge, ENG, United Kingdom