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Earth's biosphere is undergoing drastic reorganization due to the sixth mass extinction brought on by the Anthropocene. Impacts of local and regional extirpation of species have been demonstrated to propagate through the complex interaction networks they are part of, leading to secondary extinctions and exacerbating biodiversity loss. Contemporary ecological theory has developed several measures to analyse the structure and robustness of ecological networks under biodiversity loss. However, a toolbox for directly simulating and quantifying extinction cascades and creating novel interactions (i.e. rewiring) remains absent.
Here, we present
NetworkExtinction—a novel R package which we have developed to explore the propagation of species extinction sequences through ecological networks and quantify the effects of rewiring potential in response to primary species extinctions. With NetworkExtinction, we integrate ecological theory and computational simulations to develop functionality with which users may analyse and visualize the structure and robustness of ecological networks. The core functions introduced with NetworkExtinctionfocus on simulations of sequential primary extinctions and associated secondary extinctions, allowing user‐specified secondary extinction thresholds and realization of rewiring potential.
With the package
NetworkExtinction, users can estimate the robustness of ecological networks after performing species extinction routines based on several algorithms. Moreover, users can compare the number of simulated secondary extinctions against a null model of random extinctions. In‐built visualizations enable graphing topological indices calculated by the deletion sequence functions after each simulation step. Finally, the user can estimate the network's degree distribution by fitting different common distributions. Here, we illustrate the use of the package and its outputs by analysing a Chilean coastal marine food web. NetworkExtinctionis a compact and easy‐to‐use R package with which users can quantify changes in ecological network structure in response to different patterns of species loss, thresholds and rewiring potential. Therefore, this package is particularly useful for evaluating ecosystem responses to anthropogenic and environmental perturbations that produce nonrandom and sometimes targeted, species extinctions.
null (Ed.)To meet the ambitious objectives of biodiversity and climate conventions, the international community requires clarity on how these objectives can be operationalized spatially and how multiple targets can be pursued concurrently. To support goal setting and the implementation of international strategies and action plans, spatial guidance is needed to identify which land areas have the potential to generate the greatest synergies between conserving biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. Here we present results from a joint optimization that minimizes the number of threatened species, maximizes carbon retention and water quality regulation, and ranks terrestrial conservation priorities globally. We found that selecting the top-ranked 30% and 50% of terrestrial land area would conserve respectively 60.7% and 85.3% of the estimated total carbon stock and 66% and 89.8% of all clean water, in addition to meeting conservation targets for 57.9% and 79% of all species considered. Our data and prioritization further suggest that adequately conserving all species considered (vertebrates and plants) would require giving conservation attention to ~70% of the terrestrial land surface. If priority was given to biodiversity only, managing 30% of optimally located land area for conservation may be sufficient to meet conservation targets for 81.3% of the terrestrial plant and vertebrate species considered. Our results provide a global assessment of where land could be optimally managed for conservation. We discuss how such a spatial prioritization framework can support the implementation of the biodiversity and climate conventions.more » « less
null (Ed.)A key feature of life’s diversity is that some species are common but many more are rare. Nonetheless, at global scales, we do not know what fraction of biodiversity consists of rare species. Here, we present the largest compilation of global plant diversity to quantify the fraction of Earth’s plant biodiversity that are rare. A large fraction, ~36.5% of Earth’s ~435,000 plant species, are exceedingly rare. Sampling biases and prominent models, such as neutral theory and the k-niche model, cannot account for the observed prevalence of rarity. Our results indicate that (i) climatically more stable regions have harbored rare species and hence a large fraction of Earth’s plant species via reduced extinction risk but that (ii) climate change and human land use are now disproportionately impacting rare species. Estimates of global species abundance distributions have important implications for risk assessments and conservation planning in this era of rapid global change.more » « less
Addressing global environmental challenges requires access to biodiversity data across wide spatial, temporal and taxonomic scales. Availability of such data has increased exponentially recently with the proliferation of biodiversity databases. However, heterogeneous coverage, protocols, and standards have hampered integration among these databases. To stimulate the next stage of data integration, here we present a synthesis of major databases, and investigate (a) how the coverage of databases varies across taxonomy, space, and record type; (b) what degree of integration is present among databases; (c) how integration of databases can increase biodiversity knowledge; and (d) the barriers to database integration.
Major taxa studied
Plants and vertebrates.
We reviewed 12 established biodiversity databases that mainly focus on geographic distributions and functional traits at global scale. We synthesized information from these databases to assess the status of their integration and major knowledge gaps and barriers to full integration. We estimated how improved integration can increase the data coverage for terrestrial plants and vertebrates.
Every database reviewed had a unique focus of data coverage. Exchanges of biodiversity information were common among databases, although not always clearly documented. Functional trait databases were more isolated than those pertaining to species distributions. Variation and potential incompatibility of taxonomic systems used by different databases posed a major barrier to data integration. We found that integration of distribution databases could lead to increased taxonomic coverage that corresponds to 23 years’ advancement in data accumulation, and improvement in taxonomic coverage could be as high as 22.4% for trait databases.
Rapid increases in biodiversity knowledge can be achieved through the integration of databases, providing the data necessary to address critical environmental challenges. Full integration across databases will require tackling the major impediments to data integration: taxonomic incompatibility, lags in data exchange, barriers to effective data synchronization, and isolation of individual initiatives.