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Q&A: Biodiversity, distorted

There is growing concern about the loss of biodiversity worldwide, but scientists cannot measure how much an ecosystem has changed without good historical data. However, this data may be skewed, with certain time periods, species, or regions better represented than others. linkurl:Elizabeth Boakes,;http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/people/e.h.boakes an ecologist at Imperial College's Natural Environmental Research Council Centre for Population Biology in Berkshire, United Kingdom and her team looked f

Lauren Urban
There is growing concern about the loss of biodiversity worldwide, but scientists cannot measure how much an ecosystem has changed without good historical data. However, this data may be skewed, with certain time periods, species, or regions better represented than others. linkurl:Elizabeth Boakes,;http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/people/e.h.boakes an ecologist at Imperial College's Natural Environmental Research Council Centre for Population Biology in Berkshire, United Kingdom and her team looked for biases in historical data for the avian order Galliformes, representing fowl and game birds such as partridges and pheasants. Not surprisingly, their report, published this week in PLoS Biology, found that historical data were biased, such as towards Western Europe and Southeast Asia, as well as towards threatened species, which accumulated a disproportionate amount of reporting. Boakes spoke to The Scientist about ways to improve the biodiversity record.
Male Swinhoe's Pheasant
Image: Wikimedia commons,
Robert tdc
The Scientist: What was the goal of the study?...
Elizabeth Boakes:TS:EB:TS:EB:TS:EB:TS:EB:E.H. Boakes et al. "Distorted Views of Biodiversity: Spatial and Temporal Biases in Species Occurrence Data," PLoS Biology, published online June 2, 2010, doi: doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000385.



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