• 1 Moore Center for Science, Conservation International, Arlington, Virginia, United States of America
  • 2 Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, New York, United States of America
  • 3 Center for Tropical Conservation, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America
  • 4 Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands
  • 5 School of Geography, Mindset Interdisciplinary Centre for Tropical Environmental Studies, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, Selangor, Malaysia
  • 6 HP Sustainability, HP Inc., Palo Alto, California, United States of America
  • 7 Escuela de Ciencias Biológicas, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador
  • 8 Forest Research Institute Malaysia, Kepong, Selangor, Malaysia
  • 9 Conservation International Suriname, Paramaribo, Suriname
  • 10 Wildlife Conservation Society-Lao PDR Program, Vientiane, Lao PDR
  • 11 Organization for Tropical Studies, La Selva Biological Station, Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, Costa Rica
  • 12 Enterprise Services, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Palo Alto, California, United States of America
  • 13 Centre ValBio, Ranomafana, Madagascar
  • 14 Universidade Federal do Pará, Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, Belém, Pará, Brasil
  • 15 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Big Data, Palo Alto, California, United States of America
  • 16 Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre, Udzungwa Mountains National Park, Tanzania
  • 17 Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC), Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), Mbarara, Uganda
  • 18 Wildlife Conservation Society-Congo Program, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo
  • 19 Department of Biology, Yachay Tech University, Urcuquí, Imbabura, Ecuador
  • 20 Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, United States of America
  • 21 Department of Ecology and Natural (INA) Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), Ås, Norway
  • 22 National Institute for Amazonian Research (INPA), Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil
  • 23 Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Center for Environmental Sciences & Engineering, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, United States of America
  • 24 Research Center for Climate Change, University of Indonesia, Depok, Indonesia
PLoS Biol., 2016 Jan;14(1):e1002357.
PMID: 26785119 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002357


Extinction rates in the Anthropocene are three orders of magnitude higher than background and disproportionately occur in the tropics, home of half the world's species. Despite global efforts to combat tropical species extinctions, lack of high-quality, objective information on tropical biodiversity has hampered quantitative evaluation of conservation strategies. In particular, the scarcity of population-level monitoring in tropical forests has stymied assessment of biodiversity outcomes, such as the status and trends of animal populations in protected areas. Here, we evaluate occupancy trends for 511 populations of terrestrial mammals and birds, representing 244 species from 15 tropical forest protected areas on three continents. For the first time to our knowledge, we use annual surveys from tropical forests worldwide that employ a standardized camera trapping protocol, and we compute data analytics that correct for imperfect detection. We found that occupancy declined in 22%, increased in 17%, and exhibited no change in 22% of populations during the last 3-8 years, while 39% of populations were detected too infrequently to assess occupancy changes. Despite extensive variability in occupancy trends, these 15 tropical protected areas have not exhibited systematic declines in biodiversity (i.e., occupancy, richness, or evenness) at the community level. Our results differ from reports of widespread biodiversity declines based on aggregated secondary data and expert opinion and suggest less extreme deterioration in tropical forest protected areas. We simultaneously fill an important conservation data gap and demonstrate the value of large-scale monitoring infrastructure and powerful analytics, which can be scaled to incorporate additional sites, ecosystems, and monitoring methods. In an era of catastrophic biodiversity loss, robust indicators produced from standardized monitoring infrastructure are critical to accurately assess population outcomes and identify conservation strategies that can avert biodiversity collapse.

* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.