Author(s): Hurlbert AH, Jetz W
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Abstract Most studies examining continental-to-global patterns of species richness rely on the overlaying of extent-of-occurrence range maps. Because a species does not occur at all locations within its geographic range, range-map-derived data represent actual distributional patterns only at some relatively coarse and undefined resolution. With the increasing availability of high-resolution climate and land-cover data, broad-scale studies are increasingly likely to estimate richness at high resolutions. Because of the scale dependence of most ecological phenomena, a significant mismatch between the presumed and actual scale of ecological data may arise. This may affect conclusions regarding basic drivers of diversity and may lead to errors in the identification of diversity hotspots. Here, we examine avian range maps of 834 bird species in conjunction with geographically extensive survey data sets on two continents to determine the spatial resolutions at which range-map data actually characterize species occurrences and patterns of species richness. At resolutions less than 2 degrees ( approximately 200 km), range maps overestimate the area of occupancy of individual species and mis-characterize spatial patterns of species richness, resulting in up to two-thirds of biodiversity hotspots being misidentified. The scale dependence of range-map accuracy poses clear limitations on broad-scale ecological analyses and conservation assessments. We suggest that range-map data contain less information than is generally assumed and provide guidance about the appropriate scale of their use.
This article was published in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
and referenced in Journal of Ecosystem & Ecography