Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 1567–1584

Rapid evaluation of threats to biodiversity: human footprint score and large vertebrate species responses in French Guiana

  • Benoît de Thoisy
  • Cécile Richard-Hansen
  • Bertrand Goguillon
  • Pierre Joubert
  • Jean Obstancias
  • Peter Winterton
  • Sébastien Brosse
Original Paper


Although there is an extensive literature demonstrating the impact of human activities on both species extinction risk and local ecological processes, the methodological tools that allow for the visualization and quantification of the intensity of the observed and forthcoming impacts are lacking. Here we propose a Footprint index for French Guiana, (northern Atlantic coast of South America) which sums up the expected and proven disturbances on biodiversity. The index was developed by superimposing geographical and human data, including human population densities, land use, settlements and camps, mining and forest activities, tracks, roads and rivers. The relevance of the index as a general measure of anthropic impact on large terrestrial fauna was estimated by investigating the structure of the large terrestrial vertebrate assemblages, including primates, large frugivorous birds, rodents and ungulates, in relation to the extent of disturbances. The abundance of large terrestrial fauna was assessed using the line-transect sampling method in 34 forest sites facing different disturbance levels, including hunting, logging and fragmentation, and consequently different footprint scores. A Self Organizing Map was used to combine species abundances and disturbance scores. It allowed us to rank species in accordance to their sensitivity towards disturbances, identifying the response of fauna to different concomitant threats. The index provided correct identification of sites with similar threats which proves it is a relevant estimator of human disturbance. In addition, the richness of animal communities and abundances of several seed dispersers and predators were negatively correlated to the index (e.g. large monkeys and frugivorous birds, r2 = 0.49, P < 0.0001 and r2 = 0.48, P < 0.0001, respectively), indicating its reliability in identifying areas where animal communities are disturbed. The index could, therefore, constitute a useful tool to identify areas where ecological processes supported by those species are expected to be disrupted, and where they are already disrupted. Furthermore, the footprint index can deal with lack of field data or with only partially valid information, and so may directly help land managers forecast and, hopefully, mitigate forthcoming impacts resulting from the development of human activities.


Vertebrates Threats Management Footprint Self organizing maps Ecological processes 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benoît de Thoisy
    • 1
  • Cécile Richard-Hansen
    • 2
  • Bertrand Goguillon
    • 3
  • Pierre Joubert
    • 4
  • Jean Obstancias
    • 4
  • Peter Winterton
    • 5
  • Sébastien Brosse
    • 6
  1. 1.Association Kwata “Study and Conservation of French Guianan Wildlife”Cayenne cedexFrance
  2. 2.Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune SauvageKourou cedexFrance
  3. 3.WWF France, Bureau GuyaneCayenneFrance
  4. 4.Office National des ForêtsCayenneFrance
  5. 5.UFR LV, Université Paul SabatierToulouse cedex 4France
  6. 6.ECOLAB, U.M.R 5172, C.N.R.S, Université Paul SabatierToulouse cedex 4France

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