Defaunation in the Anthropocene

  • Jennings E
  • Dirzo R
  • Young H
  • et al.
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Abstract

We live amid a global wave of anthropogenically driven biodiversity loss: species and population extirpations and, critically, declines in local species abundance. Particularly, human impacts on animal biodiversity are an under-recognized form of global environmental change. Among terrestrial vertebrates, 322 species have become extinct since 1500, and populations of the remaining species show 25% average decline in abundance. Invertebrate patterns are equally dire: 67% of monitored populations show 45% mean abundance decline. Such animal declines will cascade onto ecosystem functioning and human well-being. Much remains unknown about this “Anthropocene defaunation”; these knowledge gaps hinder our capacity to predict and limit defaunation impacts. Clearly, however, defaunation is both a pervasive component of the planet’s sixth mass extinction and also a major driver of global ecological change.

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Jennings, E., Dirzo, R., Young, H. S., Galetti, M., Isaac, N. J. B., & Collen, B. (2005). Defaunation in the Anthropocene. Science, 401–406.

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