Productivity, biodiversity, and pathogens influence the global hunter-gatherer population density
The environmental drivers of species distributions and abundances are at the core of ecological research. However, the effects of these drivers on human abundance are not well-known. Here, we report how net primary productivity, biodiversity, and pathogen stress affect human population density using global ethnographic hunter-gatherer data. Our results show that productivity has significant effects on population density globally. The most important direct drivers, however, depend on environmental conditions: biodiversity influences population density exclusively in low-productivity regions, whereas pathogen stress does so in high-productivity regions. Our results also indicate that subtropical and temperate forest biomes provide the highest carrying capacity for hunter-gatherer populations. These findings document that environmental factors play a key role in shaping global population density patterns of preagricultural humans.