Impacts of global land‐use and climate change on plant biodiversity

Study suggests that impacts of climate change on plant biodiversity will largely surpass effects of land-use

Data resources used via GBIF : 52 million species occurrences
Crassula aphylla
Crassula aphylla observed near Wupperthal, South Africa by Nick Helme. Photo via iNaturalist (CC BY-SA 4.0)

In response to accelerating rates of biodiversity loss, the global community is considering new, ambitious conservation targets. To inform policy decisions, fine-scale assessments predicting future impacts of threats to biodiversity are therefore crucial.

This study examined the effects of climate change and land-use since 1900 on global vascular plant biodiversity using models of compositional turnover, based on 52 million GBIF-mediated species occurrences. By applying future scenarios of different degrees of climate and land-use change, the authors used the models to predict the proportion of vascular plants expected to go extinct by 2070.

Between 1900 and 2015 plant extinctions increased by 60 per cent. When considering land-use scenarios alone, sustainable socio-economic development could slow this down moving forward. Unfortunately, under all considered climate change scenarios, rates of extinction are predicted to be 3-4 times higher than in the most pessimistic land-use scenario alone.

The combined results of the paper suggest that unless climate change is halted, efforts to introduce sustainable land-use planning will not be enough to prevent dramatic biodiversity loss.

Original article

Di Marco M, Harwood TD, Hoskins AJ, Ware C, Hill SLL and Ferrier S (2019) Projecting impacts of global climate and land‐use scenarios on plant biodiversity using compositional‐turnover modelling. Global Change Biology. Wiley 25(8): 2763–2778. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14663