Escalating human development has severely threatened natural ecosystems, especially in the Tropics, resulting in the wholesale replacement and fragmentation of native habitats and their biotas. As a result, wild vertebrates have often become isolated in natural vegetation patches surrounded by different anthropogenic land cover (ALC) types of variable habitat quality. In many regions, ALC is the dominant form of human-modified habitat available, but its importance to wildlife remains poorly understood. We present the first Pantropical comparative analysis of the responses of all wild hoofed mammal populations (terrestrial ungulates: Perissodactyla, Artiodactyla, and Proboscidea) to six major ALC types (exotic pastures, annual croplands, abandoned croplands, perennial croplands, tree plantations, and agroforestry). Specifically, we evaluate whether life-history trait, threat status, and structural landscape contrast can explain ungulate habitat use in these ALC types. We also investigate which land uses are most likely to contribute to the persistence of Tropical cervids, bovids, tapirs, suids, and tayassuids. We show that habitat breadth and body mass are key positive and negative life-history predictors of wild ungulate responses to ALC, respectively. Additionally, our results indicate that perennial and annual croplands are the most detrimental to wild ungulates, whereas agroforestry exerts a relatively benign effect. ALC is more detrimental to Neotropical ungulates than to their ecological analogues in the Palaeotropics. We emphasise the pervasive effects of large-scale mechanised cropland, and the often positive role of agroforestry systems as supplementary habitats in sustaining wild ungulate assemblages. Large tracts of natural habitat under varying degrees of connectivity can enhance the persistence of viable Tropical ungulate populations.
- land-use change