Santangeli, A., Girardello, M., Buechley, E., Botha, A., Di Minin, E. & Moilanen, A. (2019) Priority areas for conservation of Old World vultures.Conservation Biology, 33(5), 1-10. DOI:10.1111/cobi.13282 (IF2018 6,194; Q1 Ecology)
The prosperity and well‐being of human societies relies on healthy ecosystems and the services they provide. However, the biodiversity crisis is undermining ecosystems services and functions. Vultures are among the most imperiled taxonomic groups on Earth, yet they have a fundamental ecosystem function. These obligate scavengers rapidly consume large amounts of carrion and human waste, a service that may aid in both disease prevention and control of mammalian scavengers, including feral dogs, which in turn threaten humans. We combined information about the distribution of all 15 vulture species found in Europe, Asia, and Africa with their threats and used detailed expert knowledge on threat intensity to prioritize critical areas for conserving vultures in Africa and Eurasia. Threats we identified included poisoning, mortality due to collision with wind energy infrastructures, and other anthropogenic activities related to human land use and influence. Areas important for vulture conservation were concentrated in southern and eastern Africa, South Asia, and the Iberian Peninsula, and over 80% of these areas were unprotected. Some vulture species required larger areas for protection than others. Finally, countries that had the largest share of all identified important priority areas for vulture conservation were those with the largest expenditures related to rabies burden (e.g., India, China, and Myanmar). Vulture populations have declined markedly in most of these countries. Restoring healthy vulture populations through targeted actions in the priority areas we identified may help restore the ecosystem services vultures provide, including sanitation and potentially prevention of diseases, such as rabies, a heavy burden afflicting fragile societies. Our findings may guide stakeholders to prioritize actions where they are needed most in order to achieve international goals for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.