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patterns reflect a complex history of speciation, extinction, anagenesis, and dispersal, with each factor probably shaped by biological traits and both biotic and abiotic environmental features in ways that have changed through time. Environmental features could provide much of the missing explanation for phylogenetic asymmetry (Ricklefs, 2003), whereas traits may help to complete the explanation of geographic patterns. Other, less well known taxa doubtless have different patterns, but there is no particular reason to expect the patterns to be any simpler.

Natural diversity patterns increasingly bear the stamp of widespread anthropogenic system change. The biota we see today is already affected by anthropogenic extinction. Large, slowly reproducing mammals went extinct almost everywhere (with the notable exception of Africa, perhaps linking to the patterns in Fig. 14.2c and d) ≈7,000 to 50,000 years ago (Barnosky, Chapter 12, this volume). In the past few centuries, mammalian extinctions have mostly been on islands, notably the West Indies, with continental extinctions largely confined to Australia (Baillie et al., 2004). Our analyses are therefore of an already reduced fauna. The next section considers the main ways in which human actions continue to reduce and reshape mammalian biodiversity.


The terrestrial environment is now dominated by people—1/4 to 1/3 of the land area has been transformed for human use (Vitousek et al., 1997). Additionally, human population density tends to be higher in species-rich areas, probably because productivity shapes both (Luck, 2007). Only a few mammal species fare well in human-dominated environments; the vast majority are vulnerable to the widespread and rapid anthropogenic changes. The main direct human-induced drivers that impact biodiversity now are habitat loss and fragmentation (the most important present threat), alien invasive species, overutilization, disease, pollution, and climate change (Baillie et al., 2004). The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assessed how these drivers are affecting mammals. Nearly all mammal species have been evaluated and, provided enough information was available, placed in one of the following extinction risk categories: least concern (LC), near-threatened (NT), vulnerable (VU), endangered (EN), critically endangered (CR), extinct in the wild (EW), and extinct (EX). The resulting IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2007) lists 74 mammal species as having gone extinct in their native range since A.D. 1500, 1,094 (22.5% of those evaluated) as being threatened (i.e., VU, EN, or CR), and only 2,652 (54.5%) as giving no cause for concern (i.e., as being LC).

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