A large number of factors are known to affect amphibian population viability, but most authors agree that the principal causes of amphibian declines are habitat loss, alteration, and fragmentation. We provide a global assessment of land use dynamics in the context of amphibian distributions. We accomplished this by compiling global maps of amphibian species richness and recent rates of change in land cover, land use, and human population growth. The amphibian map was developed using a combination of published literature and digital databases. We used an ecoregion framework to help interpret species distributions across environmental, rather than political, boundaries. We mapped rates of land cover and use change with statistics from the World Resources Institute, refined with a global digital dataset on land cover derived from satellite data. Temporal maps of human population were developed from the World Resources Institute database and other published sources. Our resultant map of amphibian species richness illustrates that amphibians are distributed in an uneven pattern around the globe, preferring terrestrial and freshwater habitats in ecoregions that are warm and moist. Spatiotemporal patterns of human population show that, prior to the 20th century, population growth and spread was slower, most extensive in the temperate ecoregions, and largely exclusive of major regions of high amphibian richness. Since the beginning of the 20th century, human population growth has been exponential and has occurred largely in the subtropical and tropical ecoregions favored by amphibians. Population growth has been accompanied by broad-scale changes in land cover and land use, typically in support of agriculture. We merged information on land cover, land use, and human population growth to generate a composite map showing the rates at which humans have been changing the world. When compared with the map of amphibian species richness, we found that many of the regions of the earth supporting the richest assemblages of amphibians are currently undergoing the highest rates of landscape modification.
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Vol. 2007 • No. 4