Are We Capturing Faunal Intactness? A Comparison of Intact Forest Landscapes and the "Last of the Wild in Each Ecoregion"



Plumptre AJ, Baisero D, Jędrzejewski W, Kühl H, Maisels F, Ray JC, Sanderson EW, Strindberg S, Voigt M & Wich S (2019) Are We Capturing Faunal Intactness? A Comparison of Intact Forest Landscapes and the "Last of the Wild in Each Ecoregion". Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, 2, Art. No.: 24.

Efforts to designate priority areas for conservation have had a long history, with most modern initiatives focused on either designating areas important for biodiversity or those least impacted by direct human disturbance. Ecologically intact ecosystems are becoming increasingly limited on the planet, making their identification and conservation an important priority. Intact forest landscapes (IFL) are defined as forests that are mainly free of significant anthropogenic degradation and at least 500 km2 in size. Here we define a new metric, the Last of the Wild in each Ecoregion (LWE), as a preliminary scoping of the most intact parts of each ecoregion. IFL and LWE are approaches among a broad family of techniques to mapping ecological integrity at the global scale. Although both implicitly include species integrity as a dimension of intactness, this is inferred rather than directly measured. We assessed whether IFL or LWE areas were better at capturing species where they are most abundant using species distribution data for a set of forest species for which range-wide data were available and human activity limits the range. We found that IFL and LWE methods identified areas where species we assessed are either absent or at too low an abundance to be ecologically functional. As such many IFL/LWE polygons did not have intact fauna. We also show that 54.7% of the terrestrial realm (excluding Antarctica) has at least one species recorded as extinct and that two thirds of IFL/LWE areas overlap with areas where species have gone extinct in the past 500 years. The results show that even within the most remote areas, serious faunal loss has taken place at many localities so direct species survey work is also needed to confirm faunal intactness.

intact forest landscapes; ecoregions; faunal intactness; prioritization for conservation; species extinction

Frontiers in Forests and Global Change: Volume 2

FundersInternational Union for Conservation of Nature
Publication date10/06/2019
Publication date online10/06/2019
Date accepted by journal09/05/2019
PublisherFrontiers Media SA

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Professor Fiona Maisels

Professor Fiona Maisels

Honorary Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences