Royal Society Publishing

Mapping biodiversity value worldwide: combining higher-taxon richness from different groups

Paul H. Williams , Kevin J. Gaston , Chris J. Humphries

Abstract

Maps of large-scale biodiversity are urgently needed to guide conservation, and yet complete enumeration of organisms is impractical at present. One indirect approach is to measure richness at higher taxonomic ranks, such as families. The difficulty is how to combine information from different groups on numbers of higher taxa, when these taxa may in effect have been defined in different ways, particularly for more distantly related major groups. In this paper, the regional family richness of terrestrial and freshwater seed plants, amphibians, reptiles and mammals is mapped worldwide by combining: (i) absolute family richness; (ii) proportional family richness; and (iii) proportional family richness weighted for the total species richness in each major group. The assumptions of the three methods and their effects on the results are discussed, although for these data the broad pattern is surprisingly robust with respect to the method of combination. Scores from each of the methods of combining families are used to rank the top five richness hotspots and complementary areas, and hotspots of endemism are mapped by unweighted combination of range-size rarity scores.

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