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Mammalian tolerance to humans is predicted by body mass: evidence from long-term archives

Crees, JJ; Turvey, ST; Freeman, R; Carbone, C; (2019) Mammalian tolerance to humans is predicted by body mass: evidence from long-term archives. Ecology , 100 (9) , Article e02783. 10.1002/ecy.2783. Green open access

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Abstract

Humans are implicated as a major driver of species extinctions from the Late Pleistocene to the present. However, our predictive understanding of human-caused extinction remains poor due to the restricted temporal and spatial scales at which this process is typically assessed, and the risks of bias due to “extinction filters” resulting from a poor understanding of past species declines. We develop a novel continent-wide dataset containing country-level last-occurrence records for 30 European terrestrial mammals across the Holocene (c.11,500 years to present), an epoch of relative climatic stability that captures major transitions in human demography. We analyze regional extirpations against a high-resolution database of human population density (HPD) estimates to identify species-specific tolerances to changing HPD through the Holocene. Mammalian thresholds to HPD scale strongly with body mass, with larger-bodied mammals experiencing regional population losses at lower HPDs than smaller-bodied mammals. Our analysis enables us to identify levels of tolerance to HPD for different species, and therefore has wide applicability for determining biotic vulnerability to human impacts. This ecological pattern is confirmed across wide spatiotemporal scales, providing insights into the dynamics of prehistoric extinctions and the modern biodiversity crisis, and emphasizing the role of long-term archives in understanding human-caused biodiversity loss.

Type: Article
Title: Mammalian tolerance to humans is predicted by body mass: evidence from long-term archives
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1002/ecy.2783
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.2783
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: mammals, extinction filter, extinction risk, historical ecology, Holocene, human population density
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10074776
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