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Mapping human pressures on biodiversity across the planet uncovers anthropogenic threat complexes

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Diana E. Bowler, Anne D. Bjorkman, Maria Dornelas, Isla H. Myers-Smith, Laetitia M. Navarro, Aidin Niamir, Sarah R. Supp, Conor Waldock, Marten Winter, Mark Vellend, Shane A. Blowes, Katrin Böhning-Gaese, Helge Bruelheide, Robin Elahi, Laura H. Antão, Jes Hines, Forest Isbell, Holly P. Jones, Anne E. Magurran, Juliano Sarmento Cabral & 1 more Amanda E. Bates

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1. Climate change and other anthropogenic drivers of biodiversity change are unequally distributed across the world. Overlap in the distributions of different drivers have important implications for biodiversity change attribution and the potential for interactive effects. However, the spatial relationships among different drivers and whether they differ between the terrestrial and marine realm has yet to be examined.

2.We compiled global gridded datasets on climate change, land‐use, resource exploitation, pollution, alien species potential and human population density. We used multivariate statistics to examine the spatial relationships among the drivers and to characterize the typical combinations of drivers experienced by different regions of the world.

3. We found stronger positive correlations among drivers in the terrestrial than in the marine realm, leading to areas with high intensities of multiple drivers on land. Climate change tended to be negatively correlated with other drivers in the terrestrial realm (e.g. in the tundra and boreal forest with high climate change but low human use and pollution), whereas the opposite was true in the marine realm (e.g. in the Indo‐Pacific with high climate change and high fishing).

4. We show that different regions of the world can be defined by Anthropogenic Threat Complexes (ATCs), distinguished by different sets of drivers with varying intensities. We identify 11 ATCs that can be used to test hypotheses about patterns of biodiversity and ecosystem change, especially about the joint effects of multiple drivers.

5. Our global analysis highlights the broad conservation priorities needed to mitigate the impacts of anthropogenic change, with different priorities emerging on land and in the ocean, and in different parts of the world.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalPeople and Nature
VolumeEarly View
Early online date27 Feb 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Feb 2020

    Research areas

  • Anthropocene, Biodiversity threats, Direct drivers, Global change

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