Tracing biodiversity-implicated products through supply chains

Human activities are causing the globe's sixth major extinction event — an accelerating decline of the world's stocks of biological diversity at rates 100–1000 times pre-human levels.

One-third of species threats can be directly linked to first-world consumption, which drives third-world export of goods such as timber, coffee, cocoa, and seafood, and thus directly causes threats to species in biodiversity hotspots. [Article] [Media release]

We have used a new global trade database to follow the products implicated in species threats right through to the final consumers. We linked 25,000 Animalia species threat records from the IUCN Red List of endangered species to over 15,000 commodities produced in 187 countries. We then used the trade database to evaluate over 5 billion supply chains in terms of their biodiversity impacts.

Interactive map PDF| PNG (large) | PNG (small)

To give an example, in Morocco the critically endangered dragonfly Calopteryx exul is under threat as small streams run dry due to agricultural water diversion. We attributed this threat to Moroccan agricultural exports including water-intensive dates, tomatoes, and citrus. Using the trade database we follow these products through intermediate trade and processing stops to the final consumers (predominantly in the EU). On the map this is visualized as a line linking Morocco to European consumers.


ThreatAttributed to
Habitat fragmentation / lossAgriculture, manufacturing (urban sprawl), and transportation sectors
Industrial & agricultural pollutionAgricultural and manufacturing sectors
MiningMining sector
Climate changeAll sectors, on the basis of contribution to GHG emissions
Fishing & forestryFishing and forestry sectors
Invasive speciesA major cause to biodiversity loss, but not directly anthropogenic and therefore excluded from this analysis
Subsistence hunting/farmingDomestic agriculture / hunting activity


Lenzen, M., Moran, D., Kanemoto, K., Foran, B., Lobefaro, L., Geschke, A. International trade drives biodiversity threats in developing nations Nature 486 7401. DOI:10.1038/nature11145


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