Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment
Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment

Utrecht Sustainability lecture: Impact of landuse change and hunting on biodiversity

Date: 14 September 2017
Time: 15:30 - 17:00
Location: De Boothzaal, Utrecht University Library, Heidelberglaan 3, 3584 CS Utrecht

Ana Benítez-López (Dept. of Environmental Science, Radboud University) 
Pita Verweij (Copernicus Institute, Utrecht University)

The world’s natural capital is dwindling, resulting in ecosystem degradation, massive decline of species abundance and species extinction. Land use change, greenhouse gas emissions, overexploitation, excessive water use and pollution are important causes of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. This loss of natural capital is often irreversible (e.g. species extinction) or hard to repair (e.g. loss of soil fertility) and comes at huge economic costs: now, and increasingly so in the future. Never before has there been such an acute need for the sustainable management of ecosystems to ensure that the services they provide are not compromised . This requires new strategies in nature conservation, management and restoration.

In a duo lecture, Ana Benítez and Pita Verweij will elaborate on various human impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Pita will address the broader impacts of land use change and provide examples of options for nature restoration. Ana will present a joint paper in Science, focusing on the impacts of hunting and its relation with the development of infrastructure:

Infrastructure- and hunting-induced defaunation across the tropics
Road development not only directly affects biodiversity through land use change but it also brings about a myriad of secondary, indirect effects due to increased accessibility of large nature areas that facilitates illegal colonization and ) hunting activities. This effect had not been quantified before. We synthesized 176 studies to quantify hunting-induced declines of mammal and bird populations across the tropics. Bird and mammal abundances declined by 58% (25 – 76 %) and by 83% (72 – 90%) in hunted compared to unhunted areas. Species depletion distances extended up to 7 and 40 km from hunters’ access points for birds and mammals, respectively. Additionally, hunting pressure was higher in areas with better accessibility to major towns where the wild meat could be traded, and mammal population densities were lower outside protected areas, particularly due to commercial hunting. Large-bodied species were more affected by hunting than small-bodied species. As a follow-up, we are now using machine learning approaches to project hunting-induced defaunation across the tropics. These maps, pinpointing areas most at risk of defaunation, can be used to inform conservation policies and environmental impact assessments for development of new infrastructure, and to design strategies for sustainable management of hunting.

Benítez-López, A., Alkemade, R., Schipper, A.M., Ingram, D.J., Verweij, P.A., Eikelboom, J.A.J., & Huijbregts, M.A.J. (2017). The impact of hunting on tropical mammal and bird populations. Science, 356(6334), 180-183.


De Boothzaal
Utrecht University Library
Heidelberglaan 3,
3584 CS Utrecht
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