Batch-produced, GIS-informed range maps for birds based on provenanced, crowd-sourced data inform conservation assessments

Ryan M Huang, Wilderson Medina, Thomas M Brooks, Stuart H M Butchart, John W Fitzpatrick, Claudia Hermes, Clinton N Jenkins, Alison Johnston, Daniel J Lebbin, Binbin V Li, Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela, Mike Parr, Hannah Wheatley, David A Wiedenfeld, Christopher Wood, Stuart L Pimm*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Accurate maps of species ranges are essential to inform conservation, but time-consuming to produce and update. Given the pace of change of knowledge about species distributions and shifts in ranges under climate change and land use, a need exists for timely mapping approaches that enable batch processing employing widely available data. We develop a systematic approach of batch-processing range maps and derived Area of Habitat maps for terrestrial bird species with published ranges below 125,000 km2 in Central and South America. (Area of Habitat is the habitat available to a species within its range.) We combine existing range maps with the rapidly expanding crowd-sourced eBird data of presences and absences from frequently surveyed locations, plus readily accessible, high resolution satellite data on forest cover and elevation to map the Area of Habitat available to each species. Users can interrogate the maps produced to see details of the observations that contributed to the ranges. Previous estimates of Areas of Habitat were constrained within the published ranges and thus were, by definition, smaller-typically about 30%. This reflects how little habitat within suitable elevation ranges exists within the published ranges. Our results show that on average, Areas of Habitat are 12% larger than published ranges, reflecting the often-considerable extent that eBird records expand the known distributions of species. Interestingly, there are substantial differences between threatened and non-threatened species. Some 40% of Critically Endangered, 43% of Endangered, and 55% of Vulnerable species have Areas of Habitat larger than their published ranges, compared with 31% for Near Threatened and Least Concern species. The important finding for conservation is that threatened species are generally more widespread than previously estimated.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0259299
Number of pages19
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume16
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2021

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