ThesisPDF Available

Investigating the utility of correlative distribution models to conservation science and macroecology

Authors:
  • Wilder Institute - Calgary Zoo

Abstract

BLDSC reference no.: D237046. Supervisor: David Rogers. Thesis (D.Phil.)--University of Oxford, 2005. Includes bibliographical references.
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... 22 By 2006, eight postgraduate students had completed theses based on analyses of the SABAP database. [32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39] These students were at five universities (three in South Africa and two in the U.K.), and explored the database from a variety of disciplines and perspectives, further emphasizing its richness. ...
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The first Southern African Bird Atlas Project was launched in 1986 and gathered bird distribution data from six countries of southern Africa. The project culminated with the publication of The Atlas of SouthernAfrican Birds in 1997. The database generated by the project, seven million bird distribution records, has been widely used by four groups: environmental consultants (for example, to locate electricity transmission lines), conservationists (planning conservation strategies), research scientists (especially macro-ecologists and biogeographers) and birders (ecotourism materials). By 2007, the database had spawned 50 research publications and eight Ph.D.s and master’s degrees. These products are a tribute to the more than 5000 ‘citizen scientists’, who gathered the bulk of the data. The atlas concept has been extended to frogs, reptiles, spiders and butterflies; a second bird atlas started in 2007 and will, for example, facilitate knowledge of the impact of environmental change on birds. The South African National Biodiversity Institute is playing a lead role in initiating these new projects.
... Elsewhere, the relatively fine-scale mapping of birds in Britain and Ireland has been extensively analysed in relation to land-use and other factors likely to be useful in explaining observed distributions (see, for example, Atkinson et al. 2002;Fuller 2000, 2001). McPherson (2005) found that models, including those of Carswell et al. (2005) can generate good predictive maps of the distributions of African birds. But, as one might expect, the coarsegrained data of larger grids are more difficult to use than fine-grained data, particularly georeferenced points (McPherson et al. 2006); though the large-grid data have been shown to be useful in pinpointing areas within which conservation efforts can be concentrated (Tushabe and Fjeldså 2008). ...
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In this paper, we argue that bird atlases, and the databases from which they are produced, are becoming increasingly valuable resources – but only in some parts of the world. There is a striking lack of atlases for almost all of the world's species-rich areas, most notably tropical America and tropical Asia. Yet even comparatively modest data sets (we take Uganda as an example) can be used to create an atlas. Further, their data can yield interesting information with clear value for conservation planning. For instance, we can see that Uganda's main savanna parks are quite well-placed in relation to raptor species richness, whilst other species of conservation concern are less well covered. In contrast, the fine-scale data-rich atlas projects in many American and European countries provide detailed information of great value. Taking examples from England, we show some of their uses in planning both for physical developments and for conservation. Repeating atlas projects after an interval of several years highlights changing distributions and, increasingly, changing levels of abundance. We believe that every encouragement should be given to new (and repeat) atlasing projects - but most especially in the tropics.
... Measures of rainfall variability, for example, were on average more popular in individual species' models than indices of mean temperature, an observation that runs counter to the findings for species richness (see Results). Links between the environmental associations of individual species and the environmental correlates of species richness may therefore not always be straightforward and require further investigation (McPherson, 2005). ...
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