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New ‘atlas of life’ finds key areas for conservation

In order to best protect wildlife, it is important to know where species live, so that the right action can be taken and scarce funding allocated in the right places, the researchers said.

world Updated: Oct 10, 2017 19:01 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Atlas of Life,University of Exford,Tel Aviv University
An elephant takes a bath in the Karachi zoological garden on what was a hot and humid day on October 10, 2017. (Reuters)

An international team of researchers has completed the “atlas of life” – the first global review and map of every vertebrate on Earth – that will help identify new areas where action for the conservation of species is vital.

Led by researchers at the University of Oxford and Tel Aviv University, 39 scientists have produced a catalogue and atlas of the world’s reptiles. By linking it with existing maps for birds, mammals and amphibians, the team has identified the areas for action.

The University of Oxford said in a statement that in order to best protect wildlife, it is important to know where species live, so that the right action can be taken and scarce funding allocated in the right places. With this in mind, the team produced detailed maps highlighting the whereabouts of all known land-living vertebrate species.

The research has been published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.Maps showing the habitats of almost all birds, mammals and amphibians have been completed since 2006, but it was widely thought many reptile species were too poorly known to be mapped, the statement said.

The atlas covers more than 10,000 species of snakes, lizards, turtles and tortoises. The data completes the world map of 31,000 species of humanity’s closest relatives, including around 5,000 mammals, 10,000 birds and 6,000 frogs and salamanders.

The map revealed unexpected trends and regions of biodiversity fragility. They include the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant, inland arid southern Africa, the Asian steppes, the central Australian deserts, the Brazilian caatinga scrubland, and the high southern Andes.

Richard Grenyer from Oxford said: “On the one hand, finding vital areas in arid regions is a good thing because the land is fairly cheap. But deserts and dry lands are also home to lots of other modern activities, such as major irrigation projects, huge new solar power developments, and sometimes widespread land degradation, war and conflict. This makes them very challenging environments for conservationists to work.”

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is currently classifying the species featured in the map with a rating, from “critically endangered” to “least concern”. After completion, the interactive resource will be freely available for public access and use.

The maps have also allowed conservationists to ask whether environmental efforts to date have been invested in the right way, and how they could be used most effectively, the statement said.