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Nat Commun. 2016 Aug 23;7:12558. doi: 10.1038/ncomms12558.

Sixteen years of change in the global terrestrial human footprint and implications for biodiversity conservation.

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Ecosystem Science and Management Program, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, British Columbia, Canada V2N 4Z9.
Centre for Conservation and Biodiversity Science, The University of Queensland, St Lucia Queensland 4072, Australia.
Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland 4878, Australia.
Wildlife Conservation Society, Global Conservation Program, Bronx New York 10460, USA.
Ecosystem Management, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland.
Doñana Biological Station (EBD-CSIC), Avd. Américo Vespucio s/n, Isla de la Cartuja, 41092 Sevilla, Spain.
School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, University of Queensland, St Lucia Queensland 4072, Australia.
Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Silwood Park, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7PY, UK.
Department of Civil Engineering, The City College of New York, CUNY Environmental CrossRoads Initiative, City University of New York, New York, New York 10007, USA.
Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Columbia University, Palisades, New York 10964, USA.


Human pressures on the environment are changing spatially and temporally, with profound implications for the planet's biodiversity and human economies. Here we use recently available data on infrastructure, land cover and human access into natural areas to construct a globally standardized measure of the cumulative human footprint on the terrestrial environment at 1 km(2) resolution from 1993 to 2009. We note that while the human population has increased by 23% and the world economy has grown 153%, the human footprint has increased by just 9%. Still, 75% the planet's land surface is experiencing measurable human pressures. Moreover, pressures are perversely intense, widespread and rapidly intensifying in places with high biodiversity. Encouragingly, we discover decreases in environmental pressures in the wealthiest countries and those with strong control of corruption. Clearly the human footprint on Earth is changing, yet there are still opportunities for conservation gains.

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