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Keywords:

  • Biodiversity conservation;
  • ecosystem services;
  • extinction crisis;
  • habitat loss;
  • protected areas

Abstract

Human impacts on the natural environment have reached such proportions that in addition to an ‘extinction crisis’, we now also face a broader ‘biome crisis’. Here we identify the world's terrestrial biomes and, at a finer spatial scale, ecoregions in which biodiversity and ecological function are at greatest risk because of extensive habitat conversion and limited habitat protection. Habitat conversion exceeds habitat protection by a ratio of 8 : 1 in temperate grasslands and Mediterranean biomes, and 10 : 1 in more than 140 ecoregions. These regions include some of the most biologically distinctive, species rich ecosystems on Earth, as well as the last home of many threatened and endangered species. Confronting the biome crisis requires a concerted and comprehensive response aimed at protecting not only species, but the variety of landscapes, ecological interactions, and evolutionary pressures that sustain biodiversity, generate ecosystem services, and evolve new species in the future.