This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Impacts of Human Spatial Concentration, Economic Freedom, and Corruption on Species Imperilment




Pandit, Ram

Type of Degree



Forestry and Wildlife Sciences


Advocates of certain public policies believe that alternative spatial distributions of a fixed-size human population have different environmental consequences. Specifically, a more concentrated human population has a smaller ‘ecological footprint’ and thereby generates lesser environmental harm in the aggregate, as compared to a scattered distribution of the same size population. Similarly, the economic freedom and corruption literature links these institutional and human behaviors to environmental outcomes through economic growth. In general, economic freedom (corruption) increases (decreases) economic well-being in a country and the increased (decreased) economic well-being has a positive (negative) effect on environmental outcomes in that country. Considering species imperilment as an aggregate form of the environmental outcome, this dissertation aims to explore the empirical linkages among spatial concentration of a fixed size human population, economic freedom, and corruption with species imperilment at the country level for five taxa: birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and vascular plants. International data on threatened species, endemic species, population density, a Gini coefficient index of human concentration, per capita income, economic freedom, and corruption for 173 countries are analyzed with econometric techniques that permit adjustment for spatial autocorrelation across countries using four alternative spatial adjacency specifications: simple, 2nd order, centroid distance, and shared border length. Results indicate that human population concentration is associated with reduced imperilment among amphibians and vascular plants but increased imperilment among mammals, reptiles, and birds. Spatial autocorrelation across countries is found in all five taxa examined, for all spatial dependency specifications, suggesting that the factors that influence species imperilment extend beyond arbitrary political boundaries. Among four spatial adjacency specifications, a simple adjacency measure is found superior to a measure of the percentage of shared border, for all five taxa. The results of introducing both general and specific controls for spatial autocorrelation revealed that the specific variable based spatial controls can substantially change not only the size and statistical significance of the general spatial autocorrelation term but also the size, sign, and/or statistical significance of the explanatory variables. Furthermore, the results indicate that economic freedom has significant impacts on the imperilment of birds, mammals, and reptiles, whereas corruption only impacts the imperilment of birds. In general, more economic freedom and less corruption beyond a certain threshold reduce species imperilment in a country.