Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Christy M. McCain
The Anthropocene mass extinction, or sixth mass extinction, represents a threat to global biodiversity. The only precedents for extinction at this pace are events similar to the K-Pg extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs and over 75% of the other species on Earth at the time. To be effective, conservation science needs to rapidly change focus to a larger scale. In this dissertation, I explore several conservation avenues through the lenses of ecology and economics using global primate species to examine my hypotheses. In Chapter II, I assess shared traits among primates that may indicate increased extinction risk using a hierarchical Bayesian framework. I find the traits most associated with primate species’ risk are evolutionary relationship (i.e., closely related species are similarly endangered) and habitat specialization. In Chapter III, I combine species’ geographic ranges with historic human population maps dating back 200 years to assess whether primate species exhibit a lag in extinction after anthropogenic encroachment. I see strong evidence of extinction debt among primates; current species decline best correlates with human population density roughly 100 years in the past. In Chapter IV, I examine the role of national-scale socioeconomic factors in species risk. To do so, I test socioeconomic data for nations of the world as predictors of species risk within each nation. Analysis of socioeconomic factors show a tradeoff between the well-being of the people of a nation and primate risk. The higher the human standard of living, the greater the primate extinction risk. However, this analysis also illuminates the strength of international cooperation – species found in more countries are at less risk. In Chapter V, I explore conservation triage, a method of prioritizing which species to conserve, given limited resources. To do this, I modeled primate species extinctions across 150 years into the future under varying prioritization schemes and calculated extinction and phylogenetic diversity loss. I find triage focused on evolutionarily distinct species that are also at-risk may save more species and diversity than a method focused solely on the rarest species. The research in this dissertation supports addressing global primate extinction on a large scale – prioritizing the use of limited resources to address multiple species simultaneously.
Knight, Kevin Bracy, "Global Primate Species Decline in the Anthropocene: Threats and Triage" (2017). Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 105.