How land use affects biodiversity in drylands and Mediterranean environments

Study finds strong negative impacts of land use on Mediterranean environments—but no significant biodiversity responses in drylands

Calopteryx splendens
Banded demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) observed in Pićan, Croatia by Edi Gljušćić. Photo via iNaturalist (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Human land uses, such as agriculture, urbanization and plantation forests, are expanding worldwide, destroying habitats and leading to local species extinctions. The effects of land use on biodiversity, however, vary across ecosystem types, as a crop field may reduce biodiversity in tropical rainforests but may increase it in a desert.

This study focuses on drylands and Mediterranean ecosystems, estimated to have experienced the largest land-use derived declines in biodiversity to date. Assembling a dataset of biodiversity surveys in these biomes, the authors create a model comparing species richness, abundance, diversity, endemism and compositional turnover across different types of land use.

To assess effects on endemism and composition, the authors used GBIF-mediated occurrence data to define species range occupancy, which was also modelled as a function of land use.

The overall results showed strong negative responses to land use in Mediterranean environments. Relative to undisturbed natural habitat, all measured parameters showed decline across all land uses. For drylands, however, the results showed a strong turnover in species composition, but no significant response in any other measures.

Original article

García-Vega D and Newbold T (2019) Assessing the effects of land use on biodiversity in the world’s drylands and Mediterranean environments. Biodiversity and Conservation. Springer Science and Business Media LLC 29(2): 393–408. Available at: