Habitat loss, extinction predictability and conservation efforts in the terrestrial ecoregions

Elsevier, Biological Conservation, Volume 246, June 2020
Goncalves-Souza D., Verburg P.H., Dobrovolski R.
The destruction of natural habitats is causing loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Although a “zero deforestation” is targeted, agriculture expansion caused by increasing human population and per capita consumption might boost the destruction of natural habitats in the coming decades. Here, we estimated the current and future extinction crisis in terrestrial ecoregions caused by habitat destruction and related this pattern with the current conservation efforts. We applied an Endemics-Area Relationship to assess vertebrates' potential extinctions in 513 ecoregions based on current land cover data and a future scenario of habitat loss. We compared our predictions to the proportion of the ecoregions' area formally protected, testing the concordance between threat distribution and conservation efforts. Finally, we evaluated how the distribution of threat relates to the biodiversity hotspots delimitation. We found that 2134 endemic vertebrates are currently threatened due to accumulated habitat loss, which is consistent with the assessment of the IUCN Red List. Further, this threat could overtake 4209 species when considering habitat loss projections to 2040. Our findings indicate a high concentration of threat in a few megadiverse localities, some of them outside the biodiversity hotspots. We found little overlap between our predictions of extinction and current protected areas distribution. This study supports current biodiversity crisis diagnoses and the expected recrudescence of Anthropocene defaunation in the future when considering scenarios of further habitat destruction. Our analysis also contributes to the definition of global priorities to prevent further biodiversity loss.