Global Diversity, Endemism, and Conservation of Mammals

Sechrest, Weston Whitfield, Department of Biology, University of Virginia
Gittleman, John, Department of Biology, University of Virginia
Brooks, Tom
Shugart, Hank, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
Antonovics, Janis, Department of Biology, University of Virginia
Macko, Stephen, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia

Understanding the world's biodiversity is a central goal of ecological, evolutionary, and conservation sciences. The rapid spread of humanity's influence across the globe makes this a time-dependent priority. However, millions of species are not described, and most that have been described are not well studied. This information forms the basis of sound ecological and evolutionary research, and incomplete data for most areas and taxonomic groups creates a large gap in scientific knowledge. The goal of my research has been to advance the biodiversity science for mammals. I have used current technology and data sources to compile the most complete database on species' distributions for any Class. I describe in detail where all species of mammals live, and how this relates to broad-scale patterns in diversity across this group. In the introductory Chapter, I describe the general threats to the world's biodiversity, and the current state of knowledge about the extent of human impacts. The second Chapter explains the methods: how the data on mammal geographic ranges were gathered, including advantages and problems with the existing data. The third Chapter assesses patterns of diversity across all terrestrial mammals, which sets the stage for the rest of the analytical chapters. Conservation science necessarily focuses attention on species that are narrow endemics and on those that are threatened. In the fourth Chapter, I describe the patterns of endemism in mammals, and how this translates across taxonomic groups and areas. The fifth Chapter assesses the extent of two measures of human impact, human population density and land-use intensity, in terms of threat to mammals. This study is the first to explicitly measure human impacts for all species in one group, and, as such, ii sets a standard for analyzing global threats to species. The last Chapter describes how one specific biodiversity pattern, measured using species' evolutionary history, can be applied to ongoing conservation strategies. My research has allowed testing of global hypotheses of biodiversity across mammals, such as how patterns of endemism differ among Orders of mammals. The results have implications for the science of biodiversity, and the application to ecology, evolution, and conservation.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
global diversity, ecology, conservation, biodiversity
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