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Estimating biodiversity impacts without field surveys: A case study in northern Borneo

Abstract

In many regions of the world, biodiversity surveys are not routinely conducted prior to activities that lead to land conversion, such as development projects. Here we use top-down methods based on global range maps and bottom-up methods based on macroecological scaling laws to illuminate the otherwise hidden biodiversity impacts of three large hydroelectric dams in the state of Sarawak in northern Borneo. Our retrospective impact assessment finds that the three reservoirs inundate habitat for 331 species of birds (3 million individuals) and 164 species of mammals (110 million individuals). A minimum of 2100 species of trees (900 million individuals) and 17 700 species of arthropods (34 billion individuals) are estimated to be affected by the dams. No extinctions of bird, mammal, or tree species are expected due to habitat loss following reservoir inundation, while 4–7 arthropod species extinctions are predicted. These assessment methods are applicable to any data-limited system undergoing land-use change.

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Acknowledgments

We thank D. Kamman, J. Harte, and M. Potts for helpful comments on drafts of this manuscript. This work was supported in part by an Advancing Theory in Biology award from the National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to Justin Kitzes.

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Kitzes, J., Shirley, R. Estimating biodiversity impacts without field surveys: A case study in northern Borneo. Ambio 45, 110–119 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-015-0683-3

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Keywords

  • Impact assessment
  • Population
  • Abundance
  • Land use
  • Landscape