DCSIMG

Map of biodiversity updated after more than a century

  • by JOHN VON RADOWITZ
 

A MAP of biodiversity showing the organisation of terrestrial life on Earth has been updated after more than a century.

The original map, drawn up by British naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace in 1876, was the first attempt to depict the 
myriad ways life has evolved on the world’s continents.

Advances in modern technology and data on more than 20,000 species have now allowed scientists to chart biodiversity in far more detail.

The new map, published online by the journal Science, shows the division of nature into 11 large biogeographic realms and how they relate to each other.

Evolutionary and geographical information is combined for all known mammals, birds and amphibians – a total of more than 20,000 species.

A team of 15 international researchers took 20 years to compile the data.

Lead scientist Dr Ben Holt, from the Centre for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, said: “Our study is a long overdue update of one of the most fundamental maps in natural sciences.

“For the first time since Wallace’s attempt, we are finally able to provide a broad description of the natural world based on incredibly detailed information for thousands of vertebrate 
species.”

Co-author Dr Jean-Philippe Lessard, from McGill University in Canada, said: “The map provides important baseline information for future ecological and evolutionary research.

“It also has major conservation significance in light of the ongoing biodiversity crisis and global environmental change.”

 

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