The impact of human land use on the composition of ecological communities

Human land use has a negative impact of on the composition of ecological communities, also known as alpha diversity, but less is known about how the widespread modifications of natural habitats affect species turnover.

Data resources used via GBIF : 240 million species occurrences
An aerial shows the contrast between forest and agricultural landscapes near Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil

An aerial shows the contrast between forest and agricultural landscapes near Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil. Photo by Kate Evans for CIFOR. Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Human land use has a negative impact of on the composition of ecological communities, also known as alpha diversity, but less is known about how the widespread modifications of natural habitats affect species turnover. In the present study, authors used data from nearly 500 studies sampling more than 14,000 sites worldwide covering all but one of the world’s terrestrial biomes. Using GBIF-mediated occurrences to estimate the total range size of each species present, the authors paired biome-matched sites and calculated an endemicity-weighted compositional similarity between sites. Their results showed little evidence for difference in turnover, but they confirmed that alterations of habitats have a significant effect on community composition, especially in tropical biomes. The study reiterates the fact that human activities have a profound impact on the global structure of terrestrial ecological communities.

Citations

Newbold T, Hudson LN, Hill SLL, Contu S, Gray CL, Scharlemann JPW, Börger L, Phillips HRP, Sheil D, Lysenko I and Purvis A (2016) Global patterns of terrestrial assemblage turnover within and among land uses. Ecography. Wiley-Blackwell. Available at doi:10.1111/ecog.01932.

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