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Mapping Africa’s biodiversity: more of the same is just not good enough


Farooq, Harith et al. (2020), Mapping Africa’s biodiversity: more of the same is just not good enough, Dryad, Dataset,


Species distribution data are fundamental to the understanding of biodiversity patterns and processes. Yet, such data are strongly affected by sampling biases, mostly related to site accessibility. The understanding of these biases is therefore crucial in systematics, biogeography and conservation. Here we present a novel approach for quantifying sampling effort and its impact on biodiversity knowledge, focusing on Africa. In contrast to previous studies assessing sampling completeness (percentage of species recorded in relation to predicted), we investigate whether the lack of knowledge of a site attracts scientists to visit these areas and collect samples of species. We then estimate the time required to sample 90% of the continent under a constant sampling rate and the number of sampling events required to record ≥50% of the species. Using linear and spatial regression models, we show that previous sampling has been strongly influencing the resampling of areas, attracting repeated visits. This bias has existed for over two centuries, has increased in recent decades, and is most pronounced among mammals. It may take between 172 and 274 years, depending on the group, to achieve at least one sampling event per grid cell in the entire continent. Just one visit will however not be enough: in order to record ≥50% of the current diversity, it will require at least 12 sampling events for amphibians, 13 for mammals and 27 for birds. Our results demonstrate the importance of sampling areas that lack primary biodiversity data and the urgency with which this needs to be done. Current practice is insufficient to adequately classify and map African biodiversity; it can lead to incorrect conclusions being drawn from biogeographic analyses, and can result in misleading and self-reinforcing conservation priorities.