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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2019-252
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2019-252
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: data description paper 20 Feb 2020

Submitted as: data description paper | 20 Feb 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Earth transformed: detailed mapping of global human modification from 1990 to 2017

David M. Theobald1,2, Christina Kennedy3, Bin Chen4, James Oakleaf3, Sharon Baruch-Mordo3, and Joe Kiesecker3 David M. Theobald et al.
  • 1Conservation Planning Technologies, Fort Collins, CO 80521, USA
  • 2Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
  • 3Global Lands Program, The Nature Conservancy, Fort Collins, CO 80524, USA
  • 4Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA

Abstract. Data on the extent, patterns, and trends of human land use are critically important to support global and national priorities for conservation and sustainable development. To inform these issues, we created a series of detailed global datasets for 1990, 2000, 2010, and 2015 to evaluate temporal and spatial trends of land use modification of terrestrial lands (excluding Antarctica). We found that the expansion and increase of human modification between 1990 and 2015 resulted in 1.6 M km2 of natural land lost. The percent change between 1990 and 2015 was 15.2 % or 0.61 % annually – roughly 178 km2 daily. Over the pause of a deep breath, over 8 football pitches of natural lands were lost (~ 17 per minute). Worrisomely, we found that the global rate of loss has increased over the past 25 years. The greatest loss of natural lands from 1990–2015 occurred in Oceania, Asia, and Europe, and the biomes with the greatest loss were mangroves, tropical & subtropical moist broadleaf forests, and tropical & subtropical dry broadleaf forests. We also created a contemporary (~ 2017) estimate of human modification that included additional stressors and found that globally 14.5 % or 18.5 M km2 of lands have been completely modified – an area greater than Russia. Our novel datasets are detailed (0.09 km2 resolution), temporal (1990–2015), recent (~ 2017), comprehensive (11 change stressors, 14 current), robust (using an established framework and incorporating classification errors and parameter uncertainty), and strongly validated. We believe these datasets will support better understanding of the profound transformation wrought by human activities and provide foundational data on the amounts, patterns, and rates of change to inform planning and decision making for environmental mitigation, protection, restoration, and adaptation to climate change. The datasets generated from this work are available at https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.n5tb2rbs1 (Theobald et al., 2020).

David M. Theobald et al.

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David M. Theobald et al.

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Data for detailed mapping of global human modification from 1990 to 2017 D. M. Theobald, C. Kennedy, B. Chen, J. Oakleaf, S. Baruch-Mordo, and J. Kiesecker https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.n5tb2rbs1

David M. Theobald et al.

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Short summary
We developed a global, high-resolution dataset and quantified recent rates of land transformation and current patterns of human modification for 2017, globally. Briefly, we found that increased human activities and land use modification have caused 1.6 million km2 of natural land to be lost between 1990 and 2015 and found the rate of loss has increased over that time. While troubling, we believe these findings invaluable to underpin global and national discussions of priorities for conservation.
We developed a global, high-resolution dataset and quantified recent rates of land...
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