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Uncertainty in identifying local extinctions: the distribution of missing data and its effects on biodiversity measures

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Philip McGowan



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Identifying local extinctions is integral to estimating species richness and geographic range changes and informing extinction risk assessments. However, the species occurrence records underpinning these estimates are frequently compromised by a lack of recorded species absences making it impossible to distinguish between local extinction and lack of survey effort—for a rigorously compiled database of European and Asian Galliformes, approximately 40% of half-degree cells contain records from before but not after 1980. We investigate the distribution of these cells, finding differences between the Palaearctic (forests, low mean human influence index (HII), outside protected areas (PAs)) and Indo-Malaya (grassland, high mean HII, outside PAs). Such cells also occur more in less peaceful countries. We show that different interpretations of these cells can lead to large over/under-estimations of species richness and extent of occurrences, potentially misleading prioritization and extinction risk assessment schemes. To avoid mistakes, local extinctions inferred from sightings records need to account for the history of survey effort in a locality.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Boakes EH, Fuller RA, McGowan PJK, Mace GM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Biology Letters

Year: 2016

Volume: 12

Issue: 3

Print publication date: 01/03/2016

Online publication date: 09/03/2016

Acceptance date: 15/02/2016

Date deposited: 08/04/2016

ISSN (print): 1744-9561

ISSN (electronic): 1744-957X

Publisher: The Royal Society Publishing




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