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Threatened birds may be rarer than geographic range maps suggest
Date:12/10/2007

Geographic range maps that allow conservationists to estimate the distribution of birds may vastly underestimate the actual population size of threatened species and those with specific habitats, according to a study published online this week in the journal Conservation Biology.

Our study found that species ranges in general tend to get overestimated, but that this trend is particularly pronounced for birds that are threatened, rely on specialized diets or have small habitats, said Walter Jetz, an assistant professor of biological sciences at UC San Diego and the lead author of the study, which will appear in the February issue of the printed journal. This suggests that many threatened species of birds may be even rarer than we believe and are in greater danger of going extinct.

Our findings indicate that the ranges of most vulnerable bird species are experiencing the highest overestimation, thereby painting a rosier picture of their distributions than is actually the case, said Cagan Sekercioglu, a senior research scientist at Stanford University and a co-author of the study. This suggests that the conservation status of many narrow-ranging, specialized and threatened bird species may be worse than we think.

Jetz, Sekercioglu and James E.M. Watson of Britains Oxford University evaluated geographic range overestimation and its potential ecological causes for 1,158 bird species across 4,040 well-studied survey locations in Australia, North America and Southern Africa. Comparing the range maps with actual bird surveys, such as those conducted by the Audubon Society, the scientists found that most species actually occur in only 40 to 70 percent of the range suggested by their range maps. In other words, these birds are not actually found in 30 to 60 percent of their supposed range.

The scientists also found range overestimation increases for species with smaller ranges and with more specialized dietary and habitat requirements
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Contact: Kim McDonald
kmcdonald@ucsd.edu
858-534-7572
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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