Scale dependence of the correlation between human population presence and vertebrate and plant species richness




Human presence is generally negatively related to species richness locally, but the relationship is positive at coarse scales. An increase in the strength of the latter correlation with increasing study resolution has been documented within studies, but it is not known whether such a scale dependence is present across different studies. We test this with data on the spatial co-occurrence of human beings and the species richness of plants and vertebrates from a continuum of scales. The correlation coefficient between human presence and species richness is positively related to study grain and extent. The correlation turns from positive to negative below a study grain of c. 1 km and below a study extent of c. 10 000 km2. The broad-scale positive correlation between human presence and species richness suggests that people have preferentially settled and generally flourished in areas of high biodiversity and/or have contributed to it with species introductions and habitat diversification. The scale dependency of the correlation between people and biodiversity's presence emphasizes the importance of the preservation of green areas in densely populated regions.