Population decline & timing of threats

Cox, D.T.C., Gardner, A.S. & Gaston, K.J. 2023. Diel niche variation in mammalian declines in the Anthropocene. Scientific Reports 13, 1031.

Biodiversity is being eroded worldwide. Many human pressures are most forcefully exerted or have greatest effect during a particular period of the day. Therefore when species are physically active (their diel niche) may influence their risk of population decline. We grouped 5032 terrestrial extant mammals by their dominant activity pattern (nocturnal, crepuscular, cathemeral and diurnal), and determine variation in population decline across diel niches. We find an increased risk of population decline in diurnal (52.1% of species), compared to nocturnal (40.1% of species), crepuscular (39.1% of species) and cathemeral (43.0% of species) species, associated with the larger proportion of diurnal mammals that are primates. Those species with declining populations whose activity predominantly coincides with that of humans (cathemeral, diurnal) face an increased number of anthropogenic threats than those principally active at night, with diurnal species more likely to be declining from harvesting. Across much of the land surface habitat loss is the predominant driver of population decline, however, harvesting is a greater threat to day-active species in sub-Saharan Africa and mainland tropical Asia, associated with declines in megafauna and arboreal foragers. Deepening understanding of diel variation in anthropogenic pressures and resulting population declines will help target conservation actions.