Body size and latitude predict the presence of multiple stressors in global vertebrate populations

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science (MSc)

Abstract

Multiple stressors are recognised as a key threat to global biodiversity, but our understanding of what factors make species susceptible to multiple stressors remains limited. Here we analyse a global database of >7000 marine, freshwater, and terrestrial vertebrate populations, supplemented with information on species-specific traits, to identify factors which influence the number of stressors a species is subjected to. We find that body size and latitude can both influence the number of stressors a species is likely to be threatened by, but the strength of this relationship changes across systems and between taxonomic classes. Models show that large-bodied species are more likely to be threatened by multiple stressors in four taxonomic groups. Moreover, populations are generally affected by a higher number of stressors between latitudes 20°N and 40°N, and towards the poles. The spatial distribution of global stressors suggests a link between human population centres and stressor frequency, which disproportionately affects larger-bodied species. Latitude and body mass hence provide key predictive tools to identify which vertebrate populations are likely to highly threatened, enabling conservation management to be triaged for species at greatest risk.
Date of Award26 Nov 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorMartin J Genner (Supervisor) & Chris F Clements (Supervisor)

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