Biodiversity scenarios neglect future land-use changes

N. Titeux, K. Henle, J-B Mihoub, A. Regos, I.R. Geijzendorffer, W. Cramer, P.H. Verburg, L. Brotons

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Efficient management of biodiversity requires a forward-looking approach based on scenarios that explore biodiversity changes under future environmental conditions. A number of ecological models have been proposed over the last decades to develop these biodiversity scenarios. Novel modelling approaches with strong theoretical foundation now offer the possibility to integrate key ecological and evolutionary processes that shape species distribution and community structure. Although biodiversity is affected by multiple threats, most studies addressing the effects of future environmental changes on biodiversity focus on a single threat only. We examined the studies published during the last 25 years that developed scenarios to predict future biodiversity changes based on climate, land-use and land-cover change projections. We found that biodiversity scenarios mostly focus on the future impacts of climate change and largely neglect changes in land use and land cover. The emphasis on climate change impacts has increased over time and has now reached a maximum. Yet, the direct destruction and degradation of habitats through land-use and land-cover changes are among the most significant and immediate threats to biodiversity. We argue that the current state of integration between ecological and land system sciences is leading to biased estimation of actual risks and therefore constrains the implementation of forward-looking policy responses to biodiversity decline. We suggest research directions at the crossroads between ecological and environmental sciences to face the challenge of developing interoperable and plausible projections of future environmental changes and to anticipate the full range of their potential impacts on biodiversity. An intergovernmental platform is needed to stimulate such collaborative research efforts and to emphasize the societal and political relevance of taking up this challenge.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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