Empty forests and extinction filters

Empty forests and extinction filters

Mammals detected by camera traps

The empty forests and extinction filters project uses millions of camera-trap photos and powerful statistical tools to understand and predict mammals vulnerability to extinction in tropical forests.



Tropical forests harbor most of the Earth's species, but unfortunately, they are experiencing severe declines in the number and diversity of wildlife. Habitat loss and fragmentation, together with unsustainable hunting and climate change are considered to be the main threats.

Many forest mammals appear especially at risk, yet, we lack a clear understanding of what determines vulnerability. One key proposal - the extinction filter hypothesis - is that past events may help explain vulnerability. This means that species that have survived threats and conditions in the past, may be more resilient to new threats. Knowing which species are vulnerable to what threats, and how we can most effectively reduce species losses is crucial for conservation.

In the empty forests and extinction filters project, we describe occupancy and activity patterns of mammal species across the tropics, and explore how these patterns are affected by different ecological and anthropogenic histories, contexts, and conditions. We use this information to identify and characterize rules governing the vulnerability and persistence of tropical biodiversity.

The project relies on camera-trap data collected by the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network , the largest standardized tropical forest monitoring system. This database comprises more than 200 mammal species, and over three million detections.


Overall objective : Understand and predict vulnerabilities of tropical forest mammals to extinction.

Sub-objectives :

     1) Develop and apply analytical framework to weigh the determinant of species presence in space.

     2) Characterize and assess species activity patterns in time.

     3) Develop and compare predictive models of species response to threats and vulnerability to extinction.

More about the project

The project is led by researchers from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and Wageningen University & Research, and in close collaboration with Rice University (Texas, USA), and many other institutions and data providers from across the tropics.

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    Douglas Sheil
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    Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

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