U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service



Esther Sebastián‐González, Universidad Miguel HernándezFollow
Jomar Magalhães Barbosa, Universidad Miguel Hernández & Doñana Biological Station‐CSIC
Juan M. Pérez‐García, Universidad Miguel Hernández & University of Lleida
Zebensui Morales‐Reyes, Universidad Miguel Hernández
Francisco Botella, Universidad Miguel Hernández
Pedro P. Olea, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
Patricia Mateo‐Tomás, University of Coimbra & Oviedo University
Marcos Moleón, University of Granada
Fernando Hiraldo, Doñana Biological Station‐CSIC
Eneko Arrondo, Doñana Biological Station‐CSIC
José A. Donázar, Doñana Biological Station‐CSIC
Ainara Cortés‐Avizanda, Doñana Biological Station‐CSIC & IMEDEA (CSIC‐UIB)
Nuria Selva, Polish Academy of Sciences
Sergio A. Lambertucci, Universidad Nacional del Comahue
Aishwarya Bhattacharjee, City University of New York
Alexis Brewer, City University of New York
Erin Abernethy, Oregon State University
Olin E. Rhodes Jr, University of Georgia
Kelsey Turner, University of Georgia
James C. Beasley, University of Georgia
Travis L. DeVault, United States Department of Agriculture
Andrés Ordiz, Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Camilla Wikenros, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Barbara Zimmermann, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences
Petter Wabakken, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences
Christopher C. Wilmers, University of California, Santa Cruz
Justine A. Smith, University of California - Berkeley
Corinne J. Kendall, North Carolina Zoo
Darcy Ogada, National Museums of Kenya & The Peregrine Fund
Evan R. Buechley, University of Utah & HawkWatch International & Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
Ethan Frehner, University of Utah
Maximilian L. Allen, University of Illinois
Heiko U. Wittmer, Victoria University of Wellington
James R.A. Butler, CSIRO Land and Water
Johan T. du Toit, Utah State University
John Read, University of Adelaide
David Wilson, The Biodiversity Consultancy
Klemen Jerina, University of Ljubljana
Miha Krofel, University of Ljubljana
Rich Kostecke, The Nature Conservancy,
Richard Inger, University of Exeter
Arockianathan Samson, Government Arts College
Lara Naves‐Alegre, Universidad Miguel Hernández
José A. Sánchez‐Zapata, Universidad Miguel Hernández









Date of this Version



Sebastian-Gonzalez, E., J.M. Barbosa, J.M. Perez-Garcia, Z. Morales-Reyes, F. Botella, P.P. Olea, P. Mateo-Tomas, M. Moleon, F. Hiraldo, E. Arrondo, J.A. Donazar, A. Cortes-Avizanda, N. Selva, S.A. Lambertucci, A. Bhattacharjee, A. Brewer, J.D. Anadon, E. Abernethy, O.E. Rhodes, Jr., K. Turner, J.C. Beasley, T.L. DeVault, A. Oridz, C. Wikenros, B. Zimmermann, P. Wabakken, C.C. Wilmers, J.A. Smith, C.J. Kendall, D. Ogada, E.R. Buechley, E. Frehner, M.L. Allen, H.U. Wittmer, J.R.A. Butler, J.T. du Toit, J. Read, D. Wilson, K. Jerina, M. Krofel, R. Kostecke, R. Inger, A. Samson, L. Naves-Alegre, and J.A. Sanchez-Zapata. Scavenging in the Anthropocene: Human impact drives vertebrate scavenger species richness at a global scale. Global Change Biology 25(9):3005-3017. doi: 10.1111/gcb.14708


Understanding the distribution of biodiversity across the Earth is one of the most challenging questions in biology. Much research has been directed at explaining the species latitudinal pattern showing that communities are richer in tropical areas; however, despite decades of research, a general consensus has not yet emerged. In addition, global biodiversity patterns are being rapidly altered by human activities. Here, we aim to describe large‐scale patterns of species richness and diversity in terrestrial vertebrate scavenger (carrion‐consuming) assemblages, which provide key ecosystem functions and services. We used a worldwide dataset comprising 43 sites, where vertebrate scavenger assemblages were identified using 2,485 carcasses monitored between 1991 and 2018. First, we evaluated how scavenger richness (number of species) and diversity (Shannon diversity index) varied among seasons (cold vs. warm, wet vs. dry). Then, we studied the potential effects of human impact and a set of macroecological variables related to climatic conditions on the scavenger assemblages. Vertebrate scavenger richness ranged from species‐poor to species rich assemblages (4–30 species). Both scavenger richness and diversity also showed some seasonal variation. However, in general, climatic variables did not drive latitudinal patterns, as scavenger richness and diversity were not affected by temperature or rainfall. Rainfall seasonality slightly increased the number of species in the community, but its effect was weak. Instead, the human impact index included in our study was the main predictor of scavenger richness. Scavenger assemblages in highly human‐impacted areas sustained the smallest number of scavenger species, suggesting human activity may be overriding other macroecological processes in shaping scavenger communities. Our results highlight the effect of human impact at a global scale. As speciesrich assemblages tend to be more functional, we warn about possible reductions in ecosystem functions and the services provided by scavengers in human‐dominated landscapes in the Anthropocene.