Life on Land

Living Edition
| Editors: Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Amanda Lange Salvia, Tony Wall

Biodiversity Erosion: Causes and Consequences

Living reference work entry



Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth at any level of organization, from molecules to ecosystems. Thus, it includes all organisms and their populations, the genetic variation among them, and their complex assemblages into communities and ecosystems (Convention of Biological Diversity 1992). Biodiversity is therefore a multifaceted concept. Traditionally, biodiversity studies consider three forms of diversity: taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic. Taxonomic diversity (TD) includes the variety of species (or other systematic ranks) occurring at any scale and the differences in species composition among sites/areas. It can be measured in many ways, including alpha diversity (number of taxa within a particular site/area), beta diversity (the difference in species composition between sites/areas), and gamma diversity (the accumulated diversity from several sites) (Magurran 2004). Functional diversity(FD)...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Andrady AL (2011) Microplastics in the marine environment. Mar Pollut Bull 62(8):1596–1605CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Borges PAV, Costa A, Cunha R et al (eds) (2010) A list of the terrestrial and marine biota from the Azores. Princípia, Cascais, 432 pp. ISBN: 978-989-8131-75-1Google Scholar
  3. Borges PAV, Cardoso P, Kreft H et al (2018) A Global Island Monitoring Scheme (GIMS) for the long-term coordinated survey and monitoring of forest biota across islands. Biodivers Conserv 27:2567–2586CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cadotte MW, Davies TJ, Regetz J et al (2010) Phylogenetic diversity metrics for ecological communities: integrating species richness, abundance and evolutionary history. Ecol Lett 13(1):96–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cardoso P, Erwin TL, Borges PAV, New TR (2011) The seven impediments in invertebrate conservation and how to overcome them. Biol Conserv 144:2647–2655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chapin FS III, Zaveleta ES, Eviner VT et al (2000) Consequences of changing biotic diversity. Nature 405:234–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Concepción ED, Moretti M, Altermatt F et al (2015) Impacts of urbanisation on biodiversity: the role of species mobility, degree of specialisation and spatial scale. Oikos 124(12):1571–1582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cook CN, de Bie K, Keith DA, Addison PFE (2016) Decision triggers are a critical part of evidence-based conservation. Biol Conserv 195:46–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Courchamp F, Chapuis JL, Pascal M (2003) Mammal invaders on islands: impact, control and control impact. Biol Rev 78(3):347–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Culver DC, Pipan T (2009) The biology of caves and other subterranean habitats. OUP, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  11. Driscoll DA, Bland LM, Bryan BA et al (2018) A biodiversity-crisis hierarchy to evaluate and refine conservation indicators. Nat Ecol Evol 2(5):775–781CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dunn DC, Van Dover CL, Etter RJ et al (2018) A strategy for the conservation of biodiversity on mid-ocean ridges from deep-sea mining. Sci Adv 4(7):eaar4313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. European Commission (2015) Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council the mid-term review of the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020. {SWD(2015) 187 final}Google Scholar
  14. Gosselin F, Callois JM (2018) Relationships between human activity and biodiversity in Europe at the national scale: spatial density of human activity as a core driver of biodiversity erosion. Ecol Indic 90:356–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Guadeloupe (2014) Message from Guadeloupe. International conference on biodiversity and climate change held in Guadeloupe from 22–25 October 2014. See
  16. Hanski I (2016) Messages from islands – a global biodiversity tour. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 272 ppGoogle Scholar
  17. Harter DEV, Irl SDH, Seo B et al (2015) Impacts of global climate change on the floras of oceanic islands – projections, implications and current knowledge. Perspect Plant Ecol Evol Syst 17:160–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hugueny B (2017) Age–area scaling of extinction debt within isolated terrestrial vertebrate assemblages. Ecol Lett 20(5):591–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. IPBES (2018) Summary for policymakers of the thematic assessment report on land degradation and restoration of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. In Scholes R. et al (eds.). IPBES secretariat, BonnGoogle Scholar
  20. IUCN (2017) The IUCN red list of threatened species 2017-2 (2017). Available at
  21. Jones HP, Holmes ND, Butchart SH et al (2016) Invasive mammal eradication on islands results in substantial conservation gains. Proc Natl Acad Sci 113(15):4033–4038CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Katsanevakis S, Wallentinus I, Zenetos A et al (2014) Impacts of invasive alien marine species on ecosystem services and biodiversity: a pan-European review. Aquat Invasions 9(4):391–423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kier G, Kreft H, Ming T et al (2009) A global assessment of endemism and species richness across island and mainland regions. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 23:9322–9327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kueffer C, Kinney K (2017) What is the importance of islands to environmental conservation? Environ Conserv 44(4):311–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kujala H, Whitehead AL, Morris WK, Wintle BA (2015) Towards strategic offsetting of biodiversity loss using spatial prioritization concepts and tools: a case study on mining impacts in Australia. Biol Conserv 192:513–521CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Magurran AE (2004) Measuring biological diversity. Blackwell Science, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  27. Mahmoudi H, Knierim A (2015) Risk communication for farmers’ adaptation to climate change: a new task for agricultural advisory services. Int J Performability Eng 11(6):533–547Google Scholar
  28. Mammola S, Goodacre SL, Isaia M (2018) Climate change may drive cave spiders to extinction. Ecography 41(1):233–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Maxim L, Spangenberg JH, O’Connor M (2009) An analysis of risks for biodiversity under the DPSIR framework. Ecol Econ 69(1):12–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. McDonald RI, Marcotullio PJ, Güneralp B (2013) Urbanization and global trends in biodiversity and ecosystem services. In: Elmqvist T et al (eds) Urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem services: challenges and opportunities: a global assessment. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 31–52Google Scholar
  31. McKinney ML (2002) Urbanization, biodiversity, and conservation. Bioscience 52:883–890CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McKinney ML (2006) Urbanization as a major cause of biotic homogenization. Biol Conserv 127:247–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Olden JD (2006) Biotic homogenization: a new research agenda for conservation biogeography. J Biogeogr 33:2027–2039CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pereira HM, Ferrier S, Walters M et al (2013) Essential biodiversity variables. Science 339:277–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Petchey OL, Gaston KJ (2006) Functional diversity: back to basics and looking forward. Ecol Lett 9:741–747CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pyšek P, Jarošík V, Hulme PE et al (2010) Disentangling the role of environmental and human pressures on biological invasions across Europe. Proc Natl Acad Sci 107(27):12157–12162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Russell JC, Meyer JY, Holmes ND, Pagad S (2017) Invasive alien species on islands: impacts, distribution, interactions and management. Environ Conserv 44(4):359–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Staude IR, Vélez-Martin E, Andrade BO et al (2018) Local biodiversity erosion in south Brazilian grasslands under moderate levels of landscape habitat loss. J Appl Ecol 55(3):1241–1251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Triantis KA, Borges PAV, Ladle RJ et al (2010) Extinction debt on oceanic islands. Ecography 33:285–294Google Scholar
  40. Troost TA, Desclaux T, Leslie HA, van Der Meulen MD, Vethaak AD (2018) Do microplastics affect marine ecosystem productivity? Mar Pollut Bull 135:17–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Van Dover CL, Ardron JA, Escobar E et al (2017) Biodiversity loss from deep-sea mining. Nat Geosci 10(7):464–465CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. WBGU (German Advisory Council on Global Change) (2000) World in transition: strategies for managing global environmental risks. Annual report 1998. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  43. Whittaker RJ, Fernández-Palacios JM (2007) Island biogeography: ecology, evolution, and conservation, 2nd edn. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  44. Whittaker RJ, Fernández-Palacios JM, Matthews TJ, Borregaard MK, Triantis KA (2017) Island biogeography: taking the long view of nature’s laboratories. Science 357:eaam8326CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes (cE3c) /Azorean Biodiversity Group and Univ. dos Açores, Depto de Ciências e Engenharia do AmbienteAngra do Heroísmo, AçoresPortugal
  2. 2.Department of Life, Health & Environmental SciencesUniversity of L’AquilaL’AquilaItaly

Section editors and affiliations

  • Anabela Marisa Azul
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Neuroscience and Cell BiologyUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal