King's College London

Research portal

Beyond 2010: Use of habitat suitability models in the re-assessment of the 2010 Biodiversity Target for plant species

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Human activities are placing unprecedented pressure on natural ecosystems, threatening to push many species into extinction. In response to this, a call for a reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 was made and global biodiversity indicators were adopted to monitor progress. Perhaps the best known of these are the Red List Indices, which are based on temporal changes in extinction risk of species assessed for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. In the case of plants, conservation assessments for globally-representative samples of species have been carried out mainly utilising comprehensive worldwide herbarium resources, and have shown that more than 1 in 5 plant species is threatened with extinction under IUCN Red List Criteria. The aim of this thesis was to provide the scientific bases for an automated procedure to re-assess plant species pan-tropically on a 5-year time frame in order to calculate the change in the IUCN Sampled Red List Index (SRLI) for Plants as a measure of global trends in plants extinction risk.
This study has focused first on improving the method used for calculating species ranges using the available IUCN SRLI for Plants data and to develop a new measure of species range, the Extent of Suitable Habitat (ESH). The results show that this new calculation method is effective at reflecting a closer reality of plant distributions on the ground, and that such a simple method can be used to predict the current distribution of species globally. The species ESHs were then assessed through time against the degree of human impact using data from a global monitoring system for deforestation and from a future land use change scenario applied by the Co$ting Nature tool. On the basis that land cover change can be used as a proxy for local extinction risk and that a species’ ESH can be re-calculated to factor in the impact of land cover change (habitat loss), this thesis showed that a species’ ESH could be used for re-assessing the conservation status of plant species under IUCN Criterion B sub-criterion b(iii). This way, more dynamic, comparable and spatially-detailed Red List Index updates could be provided. To test the ESH range calculation this method was also compared with a widely accepted species distribution modelling approach and validated using new species occurrence points. Additionally, ESH derived species richness maps were produced for conservation prioritisation, validated using fieldwork data from previous studies and compared with existing species richness maps for plants.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date2016


Download statistics

No data available

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454