Potential millennial-scale avian declines by humans in southern China

Feng Dong*, Qiang Zhang, Yi Lin Chen, Fu Min Lei, Shou Hsien Li, Fei Wu, Xiao Jun Yang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Mounting observational records demonstrate human-caused faunal decline in recent decades, while accumulating archaeological evidence suggests an early biodiversity impact of human activities during the Holocene. A fundamental question arises concerning whether modern wildlife population declines began during early human disturbance. Here, we performed a population genomic analysis of six common forest birds in East Asia to address this question. For five of them, demographic history inference based on 25–33 genomes of each species revealed dramatic population declines by 4- to 48-fold over millennia (e.g. 2000–5000 thousand years ago). Nevertheless, summary statistics detected nonsignificant correlations between these population size trajectories and Holocene temperature variations, and ecological niche models explicitly predicted extensive range persistence during the Holocene, implying limited demographic consequence of Holocene climate change. Further analyses suggest high negative correlations between the reconstructed population declines and human disturbance intensities and indicate a potential driver of human activities. These findings provide a deep-time and large-scale insight into the recently recognized avifaunal decline and support an early origin hypothesis of human effects on biodiversity. Overall, our study sheds light on the current biodiversity crisis in the context of long-term human–environment interactions and offers a multi-evidential framework for quantitatively assessing the ecological consequences of human disturbance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5505-5513
Number of pages9
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Sept


  • avifaunal decline
  • demographic history
  • ecological niche models
  • human disturbance
  • population genomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Potential millennial-scale avian declines by humans in southern China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this