Modeling biodiversity dynamics in countryside landscapes

Ecology. 2006 Aug;87(8):1877-85. doi: 10.1890/0012-9658(2006)87[1877:mbdicl];2.


The future of biodiversity hinges to a great extent on the conservation value of countryside, the growing fraction of Earth's surface heavily influenced by human activities. How many species, and which species, can persist in such landscapes (and analogous seascapes) are open questions. Here we explore two complementary theoretical frameworks to address these questions: species-area relationships and demographic models. We use the terrestrial mammal fauna of Central America to illustrate the application of both frameworks. We begin by proposing a multi-habitat species-area relationship, the countryside species-area relationship, to forecast species extinction rates. To apply it, we classify the mammal fauna by affinity to native and human-dominated habitats. We show how considering the conservation value of countryside habitats changes estimates derived from the classic species-area approach We also examine how the z value of the species-area relationship affects extinction estimates. Next, we present a framework for assessing the relative vulnerability of species to extinction in the countryside, based on the Skellam model of population dynamics. This model predicts the minimum area of contiguous native habitat required for persistence of a species, which we use as an indicator of vulnerability to habitat change. To apply the model, we use our habitat affinity classification of mammals and we estimate life-history parameters by species and habitat type. The resulting ranking of vulnerabilities is significantly correlated with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity*
  • Central America
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Ecosystem*
  • Humans
  • Mammals
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Population Dynamics