Bird species' tolerance to human pressures and associations with population change

Emma‐Liina Marjakangas*, Alison Johnston, Andrea Santangeli, Aleksi Lehikoinen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Some species thrive in human-dominated environments, while others are highly sensitive to all human pressures. However, standardized estimates of species' tolerances to human pressures are lacking at large spatial extents and taxonomic breadth. Here, we quantify the world's bird species' tolerances to human pressures. The associated precision values can be applied to scientific research and conservation.


Time Period

Major Taxa Studied
6094 bird species.

We used binary observation data from eBird and modelled species' occurrences as a function of the Human Footprint Index (HFI). With these models, we predicted how likely each species was to occur under different levels of human pressures. Then, we calculated each species' Human Tolerance Index (HTI) as the level of the HFI where predicted occurrence probability was reduced to 50% of the maximum species' occurrence probability. We used resampling to obtain estimates of uncertainty of the Human Tolerance Indices. We also compared tolerances across species with increasing, stable, and decreasing population trends.

We found that 22% of the bird species tolerated the most modified human-dominated environments, whereas 0.001% of species only occurred in the intact environments. We also found that HTI varied according to species' population trend categories, whereby species with decreasing population trends had a lower tolerance than species with increasing or stable population trends.

Main Conclusions
The estimated HTI indicates the potential of species to exist in a landscape of intensifying human pressures. It can identify species unable to tolerate these environments and inform subsequent conservation efforts. We found evidence that species' sensitivity to human-dominated environments may be driving birds' use of space. Bird species' tolerances are also linked to their population trends, making the tolerances a relevant addition to conservation planning.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13816
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number5
Early online date14 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2024


  • Anthropocene
  • Avian species
  • Disturbance
  • eBird
  • Functional trait
  • Global change
  • Human Footprint Index
  • Macroecology
  • Synanthropy


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