In light of limited conservation funding, global conservation initiatives are increasingly focused on regions of the planet that have been identified as valuable on the basis of their species diversity, the vulnerability of resident species to extinction, or the perceived pristine nature of their ecosystems. Regions that have been resilient to high rates of extinction have not yet been systematically considered in conservation efforts. We used published range maps for 392 vertebrate species to compare historical and current species ranges. We used the results of the comparison to identify regions of the globe in which no known vertebrate species has been extirpated in the past 200 years. In 17 regions, no detectable vertebrate extinctions occurred in the past 200 years. In 6 other regions, reintroductions of species restored the full historic complement of vertebrate species. The effects of humans on a landscape, as measured by the human-footprint index, although useful, was not a singularly good predictor of faunal intactness because more than 20% of intact land area was in heavily affected areas (50% of Earth's land area), and several regions where humans have had very little effect did not have intact faunas. Only 22% of intact land area was within protected-area networks. High-latitude areas were particularly underrepresented; they made up 3 of the 4 least-protected areas in our analyses. Our results indicate that although protected areas are in some cases associated with the prevention of extinctions, there are many regions in which human activity coexists with intact vertebrate assemblages. In addition, our new approach for assessing the value of global regions for conservation identifies several regions that are not represented in other prioritization metrics.
- Conservation triage
- Intact areas