Aim To investigate how the magnitude of conservation conflicts arising from positive relationships between human population size and species richness is altered during a period of marked human population growth (2% year−1).
Location South Africa.
Methods Anuran and avian species richness were calculated from atlas distribution maps, and human population was measured in 1996 and 2001, all at a quarter-degree resolution. We investigated the relationships between human population size in, and its change during, these two periods and environmental energy availability. We then investigated the nature of relationships between species richness and human population size in both time periods, and its change during them; these analyses were conducted both with and without taking environmental energy availability into account. Finally, we investigated the nature of the relationships between human population size, and its change, and the proportion of protected land. Analyses were conducted both without and with taking spatial autocorrelation into account; the latter was achieved using mixed models that fitted a spatial covariance structure to the data.
Results Change in human population size between 1996 and 2001 exhibited marked spatial variation, with both large increases and decreases, but was poorly correlated with environmental energy availability. The nature of the relationship between human population size and environmental energy availability did not, however, exhibit statistically significant differences regardless of whether the former was measured in 1996 or 2001. Similarly, relationships between species richness and human population size did not exhibit significant differences between the two periods. The strengths of the species–human relationships were markedly reduced when energy availability was taken into account. Change in human population size was poorly correlated with species richness. The proportion of protected land was negatively, albeit rather weakly, correlated with human population size in 1996 and 2001, and with its change between these two periods.
Main conclusions Positive species–human relationships arise largely, but not entirely, because both species richness and human population size exhibit similar responses to environmental energy availability. During a period of rapid human population growth, and marked changes in the spatial variation in human population size, positive correlations remained between human population size and both anuran and avian species richness. The slope of these correlations did not, however, alter, and the most species-rich areas are not those with the largest increases in human population. Despite marked population growth, the magnitude of conservation conflicts arising from positive species–human relationships thus appears to have remained largely unchanged.