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Evaluating ecosystem protection and fragmentation of the world's major mountain regions

February 26, 2024

Conserving mountains is important for protecting biodiversity because they have high beta diversity and endemicity, facilitate species movement, and provide numerous ecosystem benefits for people. Mountains are often thought to have lower levels of human modification and contain more protected area than surrounding lowlands. To examine this, we compared biogeographic attributes of the largest, contiguous, mountainous region on each continent. In each region, we generated detailed ecosystems based on Köppen−Geiger climate regions, ecoregions, and detailed landforms. We quantified anthropogenic fragmentation of these ecosystems based on human modification classes of large wild areas, shared lands, and cities and farms. Human modification for half the mountainous regions approached the global average, and fragmentation reduced the ecological integrity of mountain ecosystems up to 40%. Only one-third of the major mountainous regions currently meet the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework target of 30% coverage for all protected areas; furthermore, the vast majority of ecosystem types present in mountains were underrepresented in protected areas. By measuring ecological integrity and human-caused fragmentation with a detailed representation of mountain ecosystems, our approach facilitates tracking progress toward achieving conservation goals and better informs mountain conservation.

Publication Year 2024
Title Evaluating ecosystem protection and fragmentation of the world's major mountain regions
DOI 10.1111/cobi.14240
Authors David M. Theobald, Aerin Jacobs, Paul R. Elsen, Erik A. Beever, Libby Ehlers, Jodi Hilty
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Conservation Biology
Index ID 70254155
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center