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Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines

Published on Jul 25, 2017in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 9.50
· DOI :10.1073/pnas.1704949114
Gerardo Ceballos39
Estimated H-index: 39
(UNAM: National Autonomous University of Mexico),
Paul R. Ehrlich97
Estimated H-index: 97
(Stanford University),
Rodolfo Dirzo51
Estimated H-index: 51
(Stanford University)
Abstract The population extinction pulse we describe here shows, from a quantitative viewpoint, that Earth’s sixth mass extinction is more severe than perceived when looking exclusively at species extinctions. Therefore, humanity needs to address anthropogenic population extirpation and decimation immediately. That conclusion is based on analyses of the numbers and degrees of range contraction (indicative of population shrinkage and/or population extinctions according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature) using a sample of 27,600 vertebrate species, and on a more detailed analysis documenting the population extinctions between 1900 and 2015 in 177 mammal species. We find that the rate of population loss in terrestrial vertebrates is extremely high—even in “species of low concern.” In our sample, comprising nearly half of known vertebrate species, 32% (8,851/27,600) are decreasing; that is, they have decreased in population size and range. In the 177 mammals for which we have detailed data, all have lost 30% or more of their geographic ranges and more than 40% of the species have experienced severe population declines (>80% range shrinkage). Our data indicate that beyond global species extinctions Earth is experiencing a huge episode of population declines and extirpations, which will have negative cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning and services vital to sustaining civilization. We describe this as a “biological annihilation” to highlight the current magnitude of Earth’s ongoing sixth major extinction event.
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Published on Jun 1, 2018in Conservation Biology 5.89
A. Townsend Peterson78
Estimated H-index: 78
(KU: University of Kansas),
Adolfo G. Navarro-Sigüenza25
Estimated H-index: 25
(UNAM: National Autonomous University of Mexico),
Alejandro Gordillo1
Estimated H-index: 1
(UNAM: National Autonomous University of Mexico)
This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Assumption- versus data-based approaches to summarizing species’ ranges, which will be published in final form in Conservation Biology at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving:
14 Citations Source Cite
Sarah M. Durant30
Estimated H-index: 30
(UCL: University College London),
Nicholas Mitchell2
Estimated H-index: 2
(ZSL: Zoological Society of London)
+ 51 AuthorsMatthew S. Becker15
Estimated H-index: 15
(MSU: Montana State University)
Establishing and maintaining protected areas (PAs) are key tools for biodiversity conservation. However, this approach is insufficient for many species, particularly those that are wide-ranging and sparse. The cheetah Acinonyx jubatus exemplifies such a species and faces extreme challenges to its survival. Here, we show that the global population is estimated at ∼7,100 individuals and confined to 9% of its historical distributional range. However, the majority of current range (77%) occurs outsi...
51 Citations Source Cite
Published on Nov 1, 2016in Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 10.16
Hillary S. Young21
Estimated H-index: 21
Douglas J. McCauley26
Estimated H-index: 26
+ 1 AuthorsRodolfo Dirzo51
Estimated H-index: 51
Anthropocene defaunation, the global extinction of faunal species and populations and the decline in abundance of individuals within populations, has been predominantly documented in terrestrial ecosystems, but indicators suggest defaunation has been more severe in freshwater ecosystems. Marine defaunation is in a more incipient stage, yet pronounced effects are already apparent and its rapid acceleration seems likely. Defaunation now impacts the planet's wildlife with profound cascading consequ...
56 Citations Source Cite
Published on Nov 1, 2016in Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 10.16
Jeannine Cavender-Bares43
Estimated H-index: 43
David D. Ackerly58
Estimated H-index: 58
(University of California, Berkeley)
+ 1 AuthorsPhilip A. Townsend34
Estimated H-index: 34
(UW: University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Biogeographic origins of plant lineages are often reflected in species functional traits, with consequences for community assembly, diversity, and ecosystem function. The climatic and environmental conditions in which species evolved have lasting influence (legacy effects) through phylogenetic conservatism of traits that underlie community assembly and drive ecosystem processes. Legacy effects that influence community assembly may have direct consequences for ecosystem function or may be linked,...
15 Citations Source Cite
Published on Sep 1, 2016in Current Biology 9.25
Julian Fennessy3
Estimated H-index: 3
Tobias Bidon8
Estimated H-index: 8
+ 6 AuthorsAxel Janke13
Estimated H-index: 13
(Goethe University Frankfurt)
Summary Traditionally, one giraffe species and up to eleven subspecies have been recognized [1]; however, nine subspecies are commonly accepted [2]. Even after a century of research, the distinctness of each giraffe subspecies remains unclear, and the genetic variation across their distribution range has been incompletely explored. Recent genetic studies on mtDNA have shown reciprocal monophyly of the matrilines among seven of the nine assumed subspecies [3, 4]. Moreover, until now, genetic anal...
52 Citations Source Cite
Published on Aug 1, 2016in Nature 41.58
Sean L. Maxwell10
Estimated H-index: 10
Richard A. Fuller46
Estimated H-index: 46
+ 1 AuthorsJames E. M. Watson46
Estimated H-index: 46
244 Citations Source Cite
Published on Jul 15, 2016in Science 41.06
Jeremy A. Thomas36
Estimated H-index: 36
(University of Oxford)
Butterflies are better documented and monitored worldwide than any other nonpest taxon of insects ( 1 ). In the United Kingdom alone, volunteer recorders have sampled more than 750,000 km of repeat transects since 1976, equivalent to walking to the Moon and back counting butterflies ( 2 ). Such programs are revealing regional extinctions and population declines that began before 1900 ( 3 , 4 ). In a recent study, Habel et al. report a similar story based on inventories of butterflies and burnet ...
26 Citations Source Cite
Miguel Martínez-Ramos47
Estimated H-index: 47
(UNAM: National Autonomous University of Mexico),
Iván A. Ortiz-Rodríguez1
Estimated H-index: 1
(UNAM: National Autonomous University of Mexico)
+ 2 AuthorsJosé Sarukhán26
Estimated H-index: 26
(UNAM: National Autonomous University of Mexico)
Abstract Anthropogenic disturbances affecting tropical forest reserves have been documented, but their ecological long-term cumulative effects are poorly understood. Habitat fragmentation and defaunation are two major anthropogenic threats to the integrity of tropical reserves. Based on a long-term (four decades) study, we document how these disturbances synergistically disrupt ecological processes and imperil biodiversity conservation and ecosystem functioning at Los Tuxtlas, the northernmost t...
25 Citations Source Cite
Published on Nov 1, 2015in Science Advances
Hans ter Steege27
Estimated H-index: 27
(UU: Utrecht University),
Nigel C. A. Pitman37
Estimated H-index: 37
(Duke University)
+ 155 AuthorsFrancisca Dionízia de Almeida Matos8
Estimated H-index: 8
Estimates of extinction risk for Amazonian plant and animal species are rare and not often incorporated into land-use policy and conservation planning. We overlay spatial distribution models with historical and projected deforestation to show that at least 36% and up to 57% of all Amazonian tree species are likely to qualify as globally threatened under International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List criteria. If confirmed, these results would increase the number of threatened pla...
37 Citations Source Cite
Published on Sep 30, 2015
Anne H. Ehrlich23
Estimated H-index: 23
Paul R. Ehrlich97
Estimated H-index: 97
6 Citations
Cited By216
Published on Feb 7, 2019
David J. Duffy (Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience), Mark Q. Martindale58
Estimated H-index: 58
(Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience)
Our recent Communications Biology research article revealed the genomic drivers and therapeutic vulnerabilities of sea turtle fibropapillomatosis tumors. Fibropapillomatosis is a debilitating tumorous disease afflicting populations of green sea turtles globally. While a virus is involved in the development of this disease, it is increasingly understood that the key trigger is linked to anthropogenic disturbances of the environment. The specific environmental co-trigger(s) has yet to be functiona...
Source Cite
Published on Apr 3, 2019in Scientific Data 5.31
Elizabeth R. Lawrence1
Estimated H-index: 1
(Concordia University),
Javiera N. Benavente1
Estimated H-index: 1
(Concordia University)
+ 8 AuthorsRamela Arax Koumrouyan1
Estimated H-index: 1
(Concordia University)
Population genetic data from nuclear DNA has yet to be synthesized to allow broad scale comparisons of intraspecific diversity versus species diversity. The MacroPopGen database collates and geo-references vertebrate population genetic data across the Americas from 1,308 nuclear microsatellite DNA studies, 897 species, and 9,090 genetically distinct populations where genetic differentiation (FST) was measured. Caribbean populations were particularly distinguished from North, Central, and South A...
1 Citations Source Cite
Published on Jan 30, 2019in Scientific Reports 4.12
Alaa Eldin Soultan4
Estimated H-index: 4
(MPG: Max Planck Society),
Martin Wikelski63
Estimated H-index: 63
(MPG: Max Planck Society),
Kamran Safi29
Estimated H-index: 29
(MPG: Max Planck Society)
For 107 endemic mammal species in the Afro-Arabian region, Sahara-Sahel and Arabian Desert, we used ensemble species distribution models to: (1) identify the hotspot areas for conservation, (2) assess the potential impact of the projected climate change on the distribution of the focal species, and (3) assign IUCN threat categories for the focal species according to the predicted changes in their potential distribution range. We identified two main hotspot areas for endemic mammals: the Sinai an...
Source Cite
Published on Apr 3, 2019in Scientific Reports 4.12
Jan Christian Habel2
Estimated H-index: 2
(TUM: Technische Universität München),
Andreas Segerer1
Estimated H-index: 1
+ 1 AuthorsThomas Schmitt26
Estimated H-index: 26
(MLU: Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg)
Species composition strongly depends on time, place and resources. In this context, semi-natural grasslands belong to the most species-rich habitats of Europe, and succession may eventually cause local extinction of typical grassland species, but conversely increase species richness due to habitat diversification. Here, we analyse potential effects of succession of calcareous grasslands on moths. Our studied community, assessed over three decades in south-eastern Germany, comprised >1000 species...
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Published on May 24, 2019in Scientific Reports 4.12
Lain E. Pardo2
Estimated H-index: 2
(JCU: James Cook University),
Mason J. Campbell7
Estimated H-index: 7
(JCU: James Cook University)
+ 3 AuthorsWilliam F. Laurance91
Estimated H-index: 91
(JCU: James Cook University)
While the conservation role of remaining natural habitats in anthropogenic landscapes is clear, the degree to which agricultural matrices impose limitations to animal use is not well understood, but vital to assess species’ resilience to land use change. Using an occupancy framework, we evaluated how oil palm plantations affect the occurrence and habitat use of terrestrial mammals in the Colombian Llanos. Further, we evaluated the effect of undergrowth vegetation and proximity to forest on habit...
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Published on Feb 12, 2019in Environmental Evidence
Romain Sordello2
Estimated H-index: 2
(CNRS: Centre national de la recherche scientifique),
Frédérique Flamerie de Lachapelle2
Estimated H-index: 2
+ 1 AuthorsSylvie Vanpeene2
Estimated H-index: 2
Background For decades, biodiversity has suffered massive losses worldwide. Urbanization is one of the major drivers of extinction because it leads to the physical fragmentation and loss of natural habitats and it is associated with related effects, e.g. pollution and in particular noise pollution given that many man-made sounds are generated in cities (e.g. industrial and traffic noise, etc.). However, all human activities generate sounds, even far from any human habitation (e.g. motor boats on...
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Published on Jan 16, 2019in Nature Communications 12.35
Bianca Saladin2
Estimated H-index: 2
Wilfried Thuiller97
Estimated H-index: 97
(CNRS: Centre national de la recherche scientifique)
+ 4 AuthorsNiklaus E. Zimmermann52
Estimated H-index: 52
Phylogenetic turnover quantifies the evolutionary distance among species assemblages and is central to understanding the main drivers shaping biodiversity. It is affected both by geographic and environmental distance between sites. Therefore, analyzing phylogenetic turnover in environmental space requires removing the effect of geographic distance. Here, we apply a novel approach by deciphering phylogenetic turnover of European tetrapods in environmental space after removing geographic land dist...
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