A world at risk: Aggregating development trends to forecast global habitat conversion

James R. Oakleaf, Christina M. Kennedy, Sharon Baruch-Mordo, Paul C. West, James S. Gerber, Larissa Jarvis, Joseph Kiesecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


A growing and more affluent human population is expected to increase the demand for resources and to accelerate habitat modification, but by how much and where remains unknown. Here we project and aggregate global spatial patterns of expected urban and agricultural expansion, conventional and unconventional oil and gas, coal, solar, wind, biofuels and mining development. Cumulatively, these threats place at risk 20% of the remaining global natural lands (19.68 million km2) and could result in half of the world's biomes becoming >50% converted while doubling and tripling the extent of land converted in South America and Africa, respectively. Regionally, substantial shifts in land conversion could occur in Southern and Western South America, Central and Eastern Africa, and the Central Rocky Mountains of North America. With only 5% of the Earth's at-risk natural lands under strict legal protection, estimating and proactively mitigating multi-sector development risk is critical for curtailing the further substantial loss of nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0138334
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 7 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Becky Chaplin-Kramer (Natural Capital Project— www.naturalcapitalproject.org , Stanford University) for consultation and providing valuable feedback on analyses; Peter Kareiva for guidance on the analysis and editorial suggestions; Jonathan Foley (Institute on the Environment— environment.umn.edu , University of Minnesota), Navin Ramankutty (LUGE Research Group— www.ramankuttylab.com , University of British Columbia), and Dany Plouffe (LUGE Research Group) for providing technical assistance on agricultural and biofuel expansion threats; Michael Heiner, Daniela Miteva, Bruce McKenney, Jack Byrnes and the people at Cranknstein for helpful discussions; and finally Bailey Oakleaf for his persistence and insistence for keeping it fun. Funding was provided by The Nature Conservancy, Anne Ray Charitable Trust, The Robertson Foundation and 3M Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Oakleaf et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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