Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research


Dr. Piero Visconti


Profile picture of Piero Visconti

I am a Research Fellow in the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research, which is a research centre within the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at UCL and at the Institute of Zoology of the Zoological Society of London. After completing a PhD in Conservation Planning jointly between James Cook University and the Global Mammal Assessment programme (GMA) at Sapienza University of Rome in 2011, I did a one-year postdoctoral project on global scenarios for terrestrial mammal in Rome and then moved in 2012 to Microsoft Research Cambridge in the Computational Ecology group. My research there focussed on understanding species responses to land-use and climate change and projecting these responses under future global change scenarios. For this research I developed analytical methods that integrate statistical models of distribution and abundance of species that use presence data and species' life-history traits, with expert-based information on species habitat preferences. While at Microsoft, I also developed methods to plan conservation interventions under severe uncertainty, and methods to survey species’ cost-efficiently borrowing sampling techniques from computer science.

Before joining UCL-CBER, I have been at UNEP-WCMC in 2015-2016 establishing the ground-work for exploring whole-ecosystem responses to global change and operationalize the concept of a Biodiversity Planetary Boundary based on loss of ecosystem functioning.

Along-side my research and supervision, I engage in the science-policy interface through my role of coordinating lead author of the IPBES Regional Assessment of status and trends and future scenarios of biodiversity and ecosystem services for Europe and Central Asia.

Contacts: p.visconti@ucl.ac.uk


I am interested in understanding how ecosystems functions and structure change with habitat loss, and whether we can predict, for a given system, the existence of tipping points in loss of native vegetation beyond which the ecosystem cannot recover to their original state. To answer these question I am using the first marine and terrestrial General Ecosystem Model.

At UCL and ZSL, I continue working on Biodiversity Planetary Boundaries as well as investigating global and regional biodiversity scenarios under future climate and land-use change.

I am also interested in predictive models of population dynamics, in particular, using models to inform conservation management decisions.

Contacts: p.visconti@ucl.ac.uk


1. Hilbers J*, Santini*, Visconti P*, Schipper A, Pinto C, Huijbregts M, Rondinini C (in press) Setting population targets for mammals using body mass as a predictor of population persistence. Conservation Biology *Joint first authors

2. Santini L, Belmaker J,  Costello MJ., Pereira M, Rossberg AG, Schipper A, Ceausu S, Dornelas M, Hilbers J, Hortal J, Huijbregts MAJ, Navarro L, Schiffer K, Visconti P, Rondinini C. (in press) Assessing the suitability of diversity metrics to detect biodiversity change. Biological Conservation

3. Joppa LN, O'Connor B, Visconti P, Smith C , Geldmann, J, Hoffmann M, Watson JEM, Butchart SHM, Virah-Sawmy M, Halpern BS, Ahmed SE, Balmford A, Sutherland WJ, Harfoot M, Hilton-Taylor C, Foden W, Di Minin E, Pagad S, Genovesi P, Hutton J, Burgess ND. (2016) Filling in biodiversity threats gaps. Science. 352, 416-418

4. Schipper, A. M., Belmaker, J, de Miranda, MD, Navarro, LM, Böhning-Gaese, K, Costello, MJ, Dornelas, M, Foppen, R, Hortal, J, Huijbregts, MAJ, Martín-López, B, Pettorelli, N, Queiroz, C, Rossberg, AG, Santini, L, Schiffers, K, Steinmann, ZJN, Visconti, P, Rondinini, C and Pereira, HM (2016), Contrasting changes in the abundance and diversity of North American bird assemblages from 1971 to 2010. Global Change Biology. doi:10.1111/gcb.13292

5. Visconti, P, Bakkenes, M, Baisero, D, Brooks, T, Butchart, SHM, Joppa, LN, Alkemade, R, Di Marco, M, Santini, L, Hoffmann, M, Maiorano, L, Pressey, RL, Arponen, A, Boitani, L, Reside, AE, van Vuuren, DP and Rondinini, C (2016), Projecting Global Biodiversity Indicators under Future Development Scenarios. Conservation Letters, 9: 5–13

6. Di Marco M, Butchart SH, Visconti P, Buchanan GM, Ficetola GF, Rondinini C Synergies and tradeoffs in achieving global biodiversity targets (2016). Conservation Biology.;30(1):189-95.

7. Di Marco M, Santini L, Visconti P, Mortelliti A, Boitani L, Rondinini C. (2016) Using habitat suitability models to scale up population persistence targets. Hystrix 2016 Jun 9;27(1).

8. Visconti P, Bakkenes M, Smith RJ, Joppa L, Syches R. Socio-economic and ecological impacts of global protected area expansion plans. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B. 70.1681 (2015): 20140284.

9. Pressey, RL, Visconti P, and Ferraro PJ. (2015) Making parks make a difference: poor alignment of policy, planning and management with protected-area impact, and ways forward. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 370.1681 (2015): 20140280.

10. Pacifici, M, Visconti, P, Scepi, E, Hausmann, A, Attorre, F, Grant, R, & Rondinini, C (2015). Fire policy optimization to maximize suitable habitat for locally rare species under different climatic conditions: A case study of antelopes in the Kruger National Park. Biological Conservation, 191, 313-321.

11. Di Marco M, Brooks T, Cuttelod A, Fishpool LDC, Rondinini C, Smith RJ, Bennun L,[12 others], Visconti P,  Watson JEM, Woodley S. (2015) Quantifying the relative irreplaceability of important bird and biodiversity areas. Conservation Biology 30: 392–402.

12. Willis SG, Foden W,  Smith RG, Burgess ND, Bakera DJ,  Belle E, Carr J, Doswald N, Garcia R, Hartley A, Hof C, Newbold T, Rahbek C, Visconti P, Young B, Butchart SHM (2015). Integrating climate change vulnerability assessments from Species Distribution Models and Trait-based Approaches. Biological Conservation 190, 167-178

13. Rondinini C, Visconti P (2015). Scenarios of large mammal loss in Europe for the 21st century. Conservation Biology 29 (2), 1028–1036

14. Mantyka-Pringle CS, Visconti P, Di Marco M, Martin TG, Rondinini C, an R. Rhodes JR (2015). Climate change exacerbates risk of global biodiversity loss due to land-cover change. Biological Conservation 187, 103-111

15. Butchart, SH, Clarke, M, Smith, RJ, Sykes, RE, Scharlemann, JP., Harfoot, M, [ 30 authors]. Visconti, P James EM Watson, Louisa Wood, Neil D Burgess Burgess, N. D. (2015). Shortfalls and Solutions for Meeting National and Global Conservation Area Targets. Conservation Letters 8: 329–337

16. Pacifici M,  Foden WB, Visconti P,  Watson JEM, Butchart SHM, Kovacs KM, Scheffers BR, Hole DG, Martin TG, Akçakaya HR, Corlett RT, Huntley B, Bickford D, Carr JA, Hoffmann AA, Midgley G, Pearce-Kelly P, Pearson RG, Williams SE, Willis SG, Bruce Young B, and Rondinini C. (2015) Assessing species vulnerability to climate change. Nature Climate Change. 5(3) 215-224

17. de Baan, L, Curran, M, Rondinini, C, Visconti, P, Hellweg, S, & Koellner, T. (2015). High resolution assessment of land use impacts on biodiversity in Life Cycle Assessment using species habitat suitability models. Environmental science & technology. 49 (4), 2237-2244

18. Marques A, Pereira HM,  Krug C, Leadley PW, Visconti, P, Januchowski-Hartley SR, Krug, RM, Alkemade R, Bellard C,. Cheung WWL, Christensen V, Cooper HD, Hirsch T,  Hoft, R, van Kolck,  J, Newbold T,  Noonan-Mooney, K, Regan EC, Rondinini C, Sumaila UR, The LSL, and Walpole M. (2015) A framework to identify enabling and urgent actions for the 2020 Aichi Targets. Basic and Applied Ecology. Basic and Applied Ecology. 15 (8), 633-638

19. Visconti P, Joppa LN. (2015) Building robust conservation plans. Conservation Biology. 29 (2), 503-512

20. Tittensor DP, Walpole M, [40 other authors],Visconti P., Ye Y. A mid-term analysis of progress towards international biodiversity targets. Science. 346, 241-244

21. Tulloch VJD, Tulloch AIT, Visconti P, Halpern  BS, Watson  JEM, Evans MC, Auerbach NA, Barnes M, Beger M, Chadès I, Giakoumi S, McDonald-Madden E, Nicholas J Murray NJ, Jeremy Ringma J, Possingham HP. Why do we map threats? Linking threat mapping with actions to make good decisions for biodiversity conservation. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 13 (2), 91-99

22. Fuentes M, Blackwood J, Jones B, Kim M, Leis B, Limpus CJ, Marsh H, Mitchell J, Pouzols FM, Pressey RL, Visconti P. A decision framework for prioritizing multiple management actions for threatened marine mega-fauna, applied in a data-poor context. Journal of Applied Ecology. 25 (1), 200-214

23. Pe'er, G, Dicks L V, Visconti P, Arlettaz, R, Báldi, A, Benton, TG, Collins S  et al. (2014) EU agricultural reform fails on biodiversity. Science 344, 1090-1092

24. Di Marco M, Boitani L, Mallon D, Hoffman M, Iacucci A, Meijaard E, Visconti P, Schipper J, Rondinini (2014)  A retrospective evaluation of the global decline of carnivores and ungulates. Conservation Biology 28(4), 1108-1117

25. Rondinini, C, Di Marco, M, Visconti, P, Butchart, S HM, Boitani, L (2014), Update or outdate: long-term viability of the IUCN Red List. Conservation Letters 7(2) 126-130.

26. Joppa L.N., Visconti P., Jenkins C., Pimm S. (2013) Achieving the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Goals for Plant Conservation. Science 341, 1100-1103.

27. Visconti, P., Di Marco, M., Januchowski, S.R., Alvarez-Romero, Pressey, Weeks R., J. Rondinini, C., R.L. (2013) Effect of errors and gaps in spatial datasets on assessment of conservation progress. Conservation Biology Volume 27( 5), 1000–1010.

28. McCreless E. Visconti P. Carwardine J. Wilcox C, Smith RJ. Cheap and Nasty? The Potential Perils of Using Management Costs to Identify Global Conservation Priorities. PloS One 8(11): doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080893

29. Pacifici M, Luca Santini  L, Di Marco M, Daniele Baisero D, Francucci L, Grottolo Marasini G, Piero Visconti P, Carlo Rondinini C. Generation lenghts of the world's terrestrial and freshwater mammals. Nature Conservation, 5, 89-94.

30. Santini et al. Moreno Di Marco M, Visconti P, Baisero D, Boitani L, Rondinini C. (2013) Ecological correlates of dispersal distance in terrestrial mammals Hystrix 24(2), 181-186.

31. Visconti P, Pressey RL, Rondinini C, Giorgini D, Maiorano L, Bakkenes M, Boitani L, Alkemade R, A F, Chiozza F 2011. Future hotspots of terrestrial mammal loss. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 366:2693-2702.

32. Eklund J, Arponen A, Visconti P, Cabeza M 2011. Governance factors in the identification of global conservation priorities for mammals. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series B  366:2661-2669.

33. Rondinini C, Di Marco M, Chiozza F, Santulli G, Baisero D, Visconti P,  Hoffmann M, Schipper J,  Stuart S, Tognelli M, Amori G, Falcucci A, Maiorano L, Boitani L 2011. Global habitat suitability models for mammal conservation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series B 366:2633-2641.

34. Boitani L, Rondinini C, Falcucci A., Maiorano L., Baisero D., Visconti P.,  Pressey R. 2011 What spatial data do we need to develop global mammal conservation strategies? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series B 366:2623-2632.

35. Rondinini, C., Boitani, L., Rodrigues, A. S. L., Brooks, T. M., Pressey, R. L., P. Visconti, Baillie, J. E. M., Baisero, D., Cabeza, M., and K. R. Crooks. 2011. Reconciling global mammal prioritization schemes into a strategy. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 366:2722-2728.

36. Januchowski-Hartley, S, Visconti, P, Pressey, R 2011. A systematic approach for prioritizing multiple management actions for invasive species. Biological Invasions 13 (5), 1241-1253.

37. Visconti, P, Pressey RL, Bode M Segan DB 2010. Habitat vulnerability in conservation planning: when it matters and how much. Conservation Letters 3, 404-414.

38. Visconti P, Pressey RL, Segan DB, Wintle B 2010. Conservation planning with dynamic threats: the role of spatial design and priority setting for species persistence. Biological Conservation, 143, 756-767.

39. Visconti P and Elkin C 2009. Using connectivity metrics in conservation planning - when does habitat quality matter? Diversity and Distributions, 15, 602-612.


I am pleased to discuss PhD opportunities and I can offer top-up scholarships.

The following opportunities can provide funding for strong doctoral students.

The NERC London Doctoral Training Partnership please apply through the DTP website

UCL Graduate Research Scholarships

UCL CoMPLEX MRes/PhD Modelling Biological Complexity

Commonwealth Scholarships

I also supervise Masters and undergraduate projects for UCL students, including those on the MRes in Biodiversity, Evolution & Conservation. Please also see our centre’s pages on research training for further information