Birds are one of the best known and most highly valued elements of the natural world, comprising more than eleven thousand different species, an extraordinary variety, ranging from hummingbirds to ostriches, from penguins to eagles. Each species is unique, in its appearance, in its habits and in where it is found. Some occur in huge numbers and others are represented by only a handful of remaining individuals; some are relatively sedentary, with individuals spending their entire lives in an area of a few hectares, while others undertake extraordinary annual migrations, covering literally half the world.
onservationists constantly warn that the planet’s biodiversity is in crisis mode, but the world is a big place. In order to best protect species, it’s useful to know where they live. With that simple truth in mind, a group of researchers have produced maps depicting the whereabouts of all known birds, mammals and amphibians at resolutions about 100 times finer than anything available before.
Tellingly, too little data exist on reptiles and fishes in order to include them in the map. Animals such as insects and crustaceans are likewise out of the question for mapping since so little information is available about their distribution.
Still, the team hopes their maps can help inform both local and global policies, protections and research agendas based upon knowing where those efforts would make the biggest impact.
Here’s another view of the maps, showing how species concentrations can contrast by region.