Thursday, 19 October 2017

Scientists complete conservation puzzle, shaping understanding of life on Earth



October 9, 2017

These maps show for the first time the complete distribution of global terrestrial vertebrate biodiversity on Earth. They comprise approximately 31,000 species of mammal, bird, amphibian and now reptiles. Credit: University of Oxford

An international team of scientists have completed the 'atlas of life' - the first global review and map of every vertebrate on Earth.

Led by researchers at the University of Oxford and Tel Aviv University, the 39 scientists have produced a catalogue and atlas of the world's reptiles. By linking this atlas with existing maps for birds, mammals and amphibians, the team have found many new areas where conservation action is vital.

In order to best protect wildlife, it's important to know where species live, so the right action can be taken and scarce funding allocated in the right places. With this in mind, an international group of researchers have produced detailed maps highlighting the whereabouts of all known land-living species of vertebrate on Earth.

Maps showing the habitats of almost all birds, mammals and amphibians have been completed since 2006, but it was widely thought that many reptile species were too poorly known to be mapped.

In research featured in Nature Ecology & Evolution, scientists from the University of Oxford School of Geography and Environment worked in close collaboration with colleagues from of Tel Aviv University and 30 other institutions to produce the new reptile atlas, which covers more than 10,000 species of snakes, lizards and turtles/tortoises. The data completes the world map of 31,000 species of humanity's closest relatives, including around 5000 mammals, 10,000 birds and 6000 frogs and salamanders.

The map has revealed unexpected trends and regions of biodiversity fragility. They include the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant, inland arid southern Africa, the Asian steppes, the central Australian deserts; the Brazilian caatinga scrubland, and the high southern Andes.



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