The first full map of where the world’s birds live reveals their diversity ‘hotspots’ and will help to focus conservation efforts, according to a research published this week. The findings are drawn from the most complete and detailed picture of bird diversity yet made, based on a new global database of all living bird species. The map also shows that the pattern of bird diversity is much more complicated than previously thought. The researchers conclude that different types of ‘hotspot’ – the most bird-rich locations on the planet — do not share the same geographic distribution, a finding with deep implications in both ecology and conservation.
To understand the mechanisms behind large scale biodiversity patterns, the researchers first had to construct global maps before delving into them. In the research the data was incorporated in a ‘GIS system’. This database was then used to score the presence or absence of each of the nearly 10,000 different bird species in a grid covering the world’s land area. Each of the 20,000 cells in the grid is 100 km squared and contains an area similar to that of Cyprus. The study is the result of a new form of ecological funding – a Natural Environment Research Council Consortium Grant. These grants encourage large-scale work and this was the first to be awarded, shared between Imperial College London, the Institute of Zoology, and the Universities of Sheffield and Birmingham. This research is to be published in Nature Magazine on 18 August 2005.