David S. Wilcove's research while affiliated with Princeton University and other places

Publications (196)

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Several cryptic avian species have been validated by recent integrative taxonomic efforts in the Sino-Himalayan mountains, indicating that avian diversity in this global biodiversity hotspot may be underestimated. In the present study, we investigated species limits in the genus Tarsiger, the bush robins, a group of montane forest specialists with...
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Protected areas safeguard biodiversity, ensure ecosystem functioning, and deliver ecosystem services to communities. However, only ~16% of the world's land area is under some form of protection, prompting international calls to protect at least 30% by 2030. We modeled the outcomes of achieving this 30 × 30 target for terrestrial biodiversity conser...
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Hundreds of millions of hectares of cropland have been abandoned globally since 1950 due to demographic, economic, and environmental changes. This abandonment has been seen as an important opportunity for carbon sequestration and habitat restoration; yet those benefits depend on the persistence of abandonment, which is poorly known. Here, we track...
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1. Identifying where and when population “bottlenecks” occur is critical to the conservation of migratory species, many of which are declining precipitously worldwide. Especially challenging is the evaluation of changes to staging sites. These sites are indispensable links in the migratory cycle but are typically used only briefly. 2. We devised a...
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Space-based tracking technology using low-cost miniature tags is now delivering data on fine-scale animal movement at near-global scale. Linked with remotely sensed environmental data, this offers a biological lens on habitat integrity and connectivity for conservation and human health; a global network of animal sentinels of environmental change.
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Is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) up to the task of preventing species from being driven to extinction by trade? A new study documents some success but also highlights major deficiencies.
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Aim Two of the most important forces affecting biodiversity are land use change (LUC) and global climate change (GCC). Previous studies have modelled their impacts on species separately, and together, but few have done so for multiple species with dispersal limitations incorporated into the models. Location Qinghai–Tibet plateau region. Methods W...
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The illegal use of natural resources, manifested in activities like illegal logging, poaching, and illegal wildlife trade, poses a global threat to biodiversity. Addressing them will require an understanding of the magnitude of and factors influencing these activities. However, assessing such behaviors is challenging because of their illegal nature...
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The illegal use of natural resources, manifested in activities like illegal logging, poaching, and illegal wildlife trade, poses a global threat to biodiversity. Addressing them will require an understanding of the magnitude of and factors influencing these activities. However, assessing such behaviors is challenging because of their illegal nature...
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Wet markets have been implicated in multiple zoonotic outbreaks, including COVID-19. They are also a conduit for legal and illegal trade in wildlife, which threatens thousands of species. Yet wet markets supply food to millions of people around the world, and differ drastically in their physical composition, the goods they sell, and the subsequent...
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India is the world’s largest consumer and importer of palm oil. In an aggressive push towards self-sufficiency in vegetable oils, the Indian government is prioritizing the rapid expansion of domestic oil palm plantations to meet an expected doubling in palm oil consumption in the next 15 years. Yet the current expansion of oil palm in India is occu...
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For biodiversity protection to play a persuasive role in land‐use planning, conservationists must be able to offer objective systems for ranking which natural areas to protect or convert. Representing biodiversity in spatially explicit indices is challenging because it entails numerous judgements regarding what variables to measure, how to measure...
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Policy Forum: Key improvements are needed for implementation of the Endangered Species Act
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Climate change and habitat degradation are amongst the two greatest threats to biodiversity. Together, they can interact to imperil species. However, how climate change and land‐use change jointly affect the demographic vital rates that underpin population viability remains unknown. Here, using long‐term data on birds from the increasingly degraded...
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For the first time in history, more people live in urban areas than in rural areas. This trend is likely to continue, driven largely by rural‐urban migration. We investigated how rural‐urban migration, combined with urbanization and generational change, affects consumption of wild animals, using one of the most hunted taxa in the Amazon: chelonians...
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Effective conservation of migratory species depends on understanding both migratory connectivity and migration strategy. The Red‐necked Stint Calidris ruficollis is a small, highly migratory sandpiper of the East Asian‐Australasian Flyway, which is classified as Near Threatened due to ongoing population declines. We tracked the migration of three R...
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Migratory animals play vital ecological roles in ecosystems worldwide, yet many species are threatened by human activities. Understanding the detailed patterns of habitat use throughout the migration cycle is critical to developing effective conservation strategies for these species. Migratory shorebirds undertake some of the longest known migratio...
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As environmental scientists working in countries whose COVID-linked deaths already exceed their military casualties from all campaigns since 1945, we believe there are significant messages from the handling of this horrific disease for efforts addressing the enormous challenges posed by the ongoing extinction and climate emergencies.
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Global biodiversity losses continue despite tremendous growth in the volume of conservation science and many local successes. Research that can achieve conservation science's aims—arresting declines in biodiversity and preventing extinctions—is therefore of ever greater importance. Here, we ask whether conservation science, as currently performed,...
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The island of Borneo is a biodiversity hotspot of global importance that continues to suffer from one of the highest deforestation rates in the tropics. Selective logging concessions overlay a third of the remaining natural forests in the Indonesian part of Borneo, but many of these concessions have become inactive in recent years. Whereas the cess...
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Aim China's Grain for Green Program (GFGP) is the largest reforestation programme in the world and has been operating since 1999. The GFGP has promoted the establishment of tree plantations over the restoration of diverse native forests. In a previous study, we showed that native forests support a higher species richness and abundance of birds and...
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Species' traits influence how populations respond to land-use change. However, even in well-characterized groups such as birds, widely studied traits explain only a modest proportion of the variance in response across species. Here, we show that associations with particular forest types strongly predict the sensitivity of forest-dwelling Amazonian...
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Understanding how and why species respond to land‐use change is one of the central challenges in conservation biology, yet the causes of variation in the responses of species to land‐use change remain unclear. We tested whether adaptation to different abiotic environments influenced the vulnerability of bird communities to agricultural expansion in...
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If current trends continue, the tropical forests of the Anthropocene will be much smaller, simpler, steeper and emptier than they are today. They will be more diminished in size and heavily fragmented (especially in lowland wet forests), have reduced structural and species complexity, be increasingly restricted to steeper, less accessible areas, an...
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Smallholder agriculture is the main driver of deforestation in the western Amazon, where terrestrial biodiversity reaches its global maximum. Understanding the biodiversity value of the resulting mosaics of cultivations and secondary forest is therefore crucial for conservation planning. However, Amazonian communities are organized across multiple...
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To improve the likelihood of conservation success, donors, policy makers, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and researchers are increasingly interested in making conservation decisions based on scientific evidence. A major challenge in doing so has been the wide variability in the methodological rigor of existing studies. We present a simple fr...
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Tropical forests and their biodiversity are disappearing, despite decades of conservation efforts. Are we now in a position to understand whether some conservation strategies work better while others consistently fail in protecting tropical forests? We searched the literature to evaluate four mainstream strategies (forest certification and reduced...
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Biodiversity conservation succeeds only if it has public support, yet many conservation scientists suggest that such support is waning and some fear that the public has lost interest in conservation. Moreover, the public's limited interest in the environment overall might be overwhelmed by concern over a single issue – that of climate change. To un...
Preprint
Aim: China's Grain-for-Green Program (GFGP) is the largest reforestation program in the world and has been operating since 1999. The GFGP has promoted the establishment of tree plantations over the preservation of diverse native forest. In a previous study (Hua et al. 2016, Nat Comms 7:12717), we showed that native forest supports higher species ri...
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The Himalayas are a global biodiversity hotspot threatened by widespread agriculture and pasture expansion. To determine the impact of these threats on biodiversity and to formulate appropriate conservation strategies, we surveyed birds along elevational gradients in primary forest and in human‐dominated lands spanning a gradient of habitat alterat...
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China is credited with undertaking some of the world's most ambitious policies to protect and restore forests, which could serve as a role model for other countries. However, the actual environmental consequences of these policies are poorly known. Here, we combine remote-sensing analysis with household interviews to assess the nature and drivers o...
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The migration routes of Red‐necked Phalaropes breeding around the Bering Sea are poorly known, despite the fact that the Bering Sea could mark the boundary between the East Palearctic populations that winter in the Pacific Ocean around the East Indies and the West Nearctic populations that winter in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America....
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Longstanding theory predicts that competitive interactions set species' range limits in relatively aseasonal, species-rich regions, while temperature limits distributions in more seasonal, species-poor areas. More recent theory holds that species evolve narrow physiological tolerances in aseasonal regions, with temperature being an important determ...
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In a recent publication, we documented the benefits of using agricultural waste (specifically, leftover orange peels from a commercial orange juice factory) to promote forest recovery at a site in Costa Rica. While we showed unambiguously positive impacts on soil conditions, forest biomass, and tree diversity, our ability to infer mechanisms behind...
Preprint
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Diversified smallholder agriculture is the main human land-use affecting the western Amazon, home to the world’s richest terrestrial biota, but the scant available data to date have suggested that the biodiversity impacts of this land-use are small. Here, we present comprehensive surveys of birds and trees in primary forest and smallholder agricult...
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Despite unprecedented efforts at reforestation in recent decades, China's native forests continue to be displaced by plantations. Collective forest land (CFL)—land owned by rural households/communities—accounts for 60% of China's total forest land and harbors nearly half of its remaining native forests. However, China's existing policy structure fo...
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Prompted by the realization that parts of the coast of southern Jiangsu Province, China, are under threat of reclamation, we here summarize evidence that loss of intertidal habitats around the Yellow Sea and at other parts along the Chinese and Korean coasts has already led to severe population declines of migratory shorebirds, including multiple e...
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The wildlife trade is now one of the greatest threats to biodiversity, and birds are among the most commonly traded groups worldwide. The demand for pet birds is especially high in Indonesia, a country with many exploited, imperiled bird species. Finding solutions to the threat that trade poses for birds, and wildlife in general, requires an unders...
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The generation of genome-wide sequence data has brought with it both exciting opportunities for conservation and challenges for determining appropriate management practices in the face of complex evolutionary histories. Genomic data can provide deep insight into taxa with complex evolutionary origins, and is a powerful tool for biologists to obtain...
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Hunting is one of the greatest threats to tropical vertebrates. Examining why people hunt is crucial to identifying policy levers to prevent excessive hunting. Overhunting is particularly relevant in Southeast Asia, where a high proportion of mammals and birds are globally threatened. We interviewed hunters in Southwest China to examine their socia...
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There is clear evidence that species' ranges along environmental gradients are constrained by both biotic and abiotic factors, yet their relative importance in structuring realized distributions remains uncertain. We surveyed breeding bird communities while collecting in situ temperature and vegetation data along five elevational transects in the H...
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The demand for timber products is facilitating the degradation and opening up of large areas of intact habitats rich in biodiversity. Logging creates an extensive network of access roads within the forest, yet these are commonly ignored or excluded when assessing impacts of logging on forest biodiversity. Here we determine the impact of these roads...
Data
Supplementary Figures 1 - 4, Supplementary Tables 1 - 8, Supplementary Note 1, Supplementary Methods and Supplementary References
Data
Species' detection status (detection represented by "≥") in each land-cover type.
Data
Abundance difference of species/genera between GFGP forests and native forest for avian breeding and nonbreeding seasons.
Article
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Reforestation is a critical means of addressing the environmental and social problems of deforestation. China's Grain-for-Green Program (GFGP) is the world's largest reforestation scheme. Here we provide the first nationwide assessment of the tree composition of GFGP forests and the first combined ecological and economic study aimed at understandin...
Data
Records of GFGP forests and their vegetation make-up reported in field-based studies.
Data
Abundance difference of species/genera between GFGP forests and cropland for avian breeding and nonbreeding seasons.
Article
en The impacts of land‐use change on biodiversity in the Himalayas are poorly known, notwithstanding widespread deforestation and agricultural intensification in this highly biodiverse region. Although intact primary forests harbor many Himalayan birds during breeding, a large number of bird species use agricultural lands during winter. We assessed...
Article
Relative to long-distance migrants, altitudinal migrants have been understudied, perhaps because of a perception that their migrations are less complex and therefore easier to protect. Nonetheless, altitudinal migrants may be at risk as they are subject to ongoing anthropogenic pressure from land use and climate change. We used global positioning s...
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The trade in wild animals involves one third of the world's bird species and thousands of other vertebrate species. While a few species are known to be imperiled as a result of the wildlife trade, the lack of field studies makes it difficult to gauge how serious a threat it is to biodiversity. We combined data on changes in bird abundances across s...
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Landscape Ecol DOI 10.1007/s10980-015-0312-3 EDITORIAL Habitat fragmentation and biodiversity conservation: key findings and future challenges Maxwell C. Wilson . Xiao-Yong Chen . Richard T. Corlett . Raphael K. Didham . Ping Ding . Robert D. Holt . Marcel Holyoak . Guang Hu . Alice C. Hughes . Lin Jiang . William F. Laurance . Jiajia Liu . Stuart...
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Landscape Ecol DOI 10.1007/s10980-015-0312-3 EDITORIAL Habitat fragmentation and biodiversity conservation: key findings and future challenges Maxwell C. Wilson . Xiao-Yong Chen . Richard T. Corlett . Raphael K. Didham . Ping Ding . Robert D. Holt . Marcel Holyoak . Guang Hu . Alice C. Hughes . Lin Jiang . William F. Laurance . Jiajia Liu . Stuart...
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Commercial trade, almost always for pets, represents a major threat to bird species and subspecies in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Java and Bali, Indonesia. Thirteen species—Silvery Woodpigeon Columba argentina, Javan Hawk-eagle Nisaetus bartelsi, Helmeted Hornbill Rhinoplax vigil, Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea, Scarlet-breasted Lorikeet Tricho...