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Future threats to biodiversity and pathways to their prevention

Nature volume 546, pages 7381 (01 June 2017) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Tens of thousands of species are threatened with extinction as a result of human activities. Here we explore how the extinction risks of terrestrial mammals and birds might change in the next 50 years. Future population growth and economic development are forecasted to impose unprecedented levels of extinction risk on many more species worldwide, especially the large mammals of tropical Africa, Asia and South America. Yet these threats are not inevitable. Proactive international efforts to increase crop yields, minimize land clearing and habitat fragmentation, and protect natural lands could increase food security in developing nations and preserve much of Earth's remaining biodiversity.

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Acknowledgements

We thank N. Hartline for assistance with assembling data, J. Cowles and F. Isbell for their comments, and the Long Term Ecological Research programme of the US National Science Foundation, the International Balzan Prize Foundation, the McKnight Presidential Chair, the University of Minnesota and the University of California, Santa Barbara for support. All data used in our analyses are publicly available from the original sources that we list or are in Supplementary Tables 3 and 4.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA.

    • David Tilman
    • , Kaitlin Kimmel
    • , Stephen Polasky
    •  & Craig Packer
  2. Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA.

    • David Tilman
    •  & David R. Williams
  3. Natural Resources Science and Management, University of Minnesota, St Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA.

    • Michael Clark
  4. Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota, St Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA.

    • Stephen Polasky
  5. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Tubney, Oxfordshire OX13 5QL, UK.

    • Craig Packer
  6. School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg Campus, Scottsville 3209, South Africa.

    • Craig Packer

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to David Tilman.

Author Contributions D.T., D.R.W. and M.C. conceived the project and M.C. and D.R.W. assembled data; D.T., M.C. and D.R.W. analysed the data; D.T., D.R.W., C.P., M.C., S.P. and K.K. wrote the paper.

Reviewer Information Nature thanks C. Godfray, L. Joppa and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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