This is the question we made in a recent paper with Javier Nori and other colleagues, specialists in amphibians and reptiles. To answer it, we measured the coverage that two different global databases on species populations provide about the impact of land use change on the populations of amphibians and reptiles worldwide. The first limitation is that we lack information on the temporal changes after land transformation: there are no, or almost none, time series that we could use to assess how will habitat changes affect the populations of species originally living in the altered fragments. This is a significant impediment that we already described as central to the Prestonian Shortfall in our 2015 review. Thus, we have to adopt an alternative strategy, where we looked for population data on pairs of fragments, one natural, and another one transformed. This space-for-time substitution allows us to infer the effects of habitat change by comparing abundances and population trends in the two types of fragments. But the coverage of data is limited even for this proxy; data is absent for most amphibian and reptile species. We lack data for an average of 75% of the amphibians and 83% of the reptiles that live in each landscape of the world, as measured by our grid system. And what’s perhaps most importat, there is a dearth of information in deforestation fronts, where the scant information available comes from populations of the species from outside these areas. It is also interesting that the level of knowledge tends to be better in South America than in Europe, especially for amphibians, but this may be due to the currently lower levels of land transformation in Europe, compared to South America. In any case, these results show that we lack data to inform how much habitat transformation may allow preserving viable populations of amphibians and reptiles, so if the goal is to develop strategic policy making that harmonizes development and conservation, we will need to gather some basic data on the true impact of habitat changes.
About The Author
I am a biogeographer with broad interests in macroecology, community ecology, island biogeography, insect ecology, evolution, and biodiversity research. My main research aim is to determine why biodiversity – and in particular community structure – is geographically distributed the way it is, and to identify the processes that domain the spatial and temporal dynamics of ecological assemblages. I work as Scientific Researcher at the Department of Biogeography and Global Change of the Natural History Museum in Madrid (MNCN), a research institute of the Spanish Scientific Council (CSIC). I am also External Professor at the Departamento de Ecologia of the Federal University of Goiás (UFG) in Brazil, and Associate Researcher of the Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes (cE3c) of the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon in Portugal.
I am a biogeographer and community ecologist, working as scientific researcher at the Department of Biogeography and Global Change of the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC).
I am also scientific collaborator at the Postgraduate Course on Ecology and Evolution of the Universidade Federal de Goiás and the Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes (cE3c) of the Universidade de Lisboa, and member of eBryo – Research Group on Experimental Bryology.