Data gaps and opportunities for comparative and conservation biology

Dalia A Conde*, Johanna Staerk, Fernando Colchero, Rita da Silva, Jonas Schöley, H Maria Baden, Lionel Jouvet, John E Fa, Hassan Syed, Eelke Jongejans, Shai Meiri, Jean-Michel Gaillard, Scott Chamberlain, Jonathan Wilcken, Owen R Jones, Johan P Dahlgren, Ulrich K Steiner, Lucie M Bland, Ivan Gomez-Mestre, Jean-Dominique LebretonJaime González Vargas, Nate Flesness, Vladimir Canudas-Romo, Roberto Salguero-Gómez, Onnie Byers, Thomas Bjørneboe Berg, Alexander Scheuerlein, Sébastien Devillard, Dmitry S Schigel, Oliver A Ryder, Hugh P Possingham, Annette Baudisch, James W Vaupel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

Biodiversity loss is a major challenge. Over the past century, the average rate of vertebrate extinction has been about 100-fold higher than the estimated background rate and population declines continue to increase globally. Birth and death rates determine the pace of population increase or decline, thus driving the expansion or extinction of a species. Design of species conservation policies hence depends on demographic data (e.g., for extinction risk assessments or estimation of harvesting quotas). However, an overview of the accessible data, even for better known taxa, is lacking. Here, we present the Demographic Species Knowledge Index, which classifies the available information for 32,144 (97%) of extant described mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. We show that only 1.3% of the tetrapod species have comprehensive information on birth and death rates. We found no demographic measures, not even crude ones such as maximum life span or typical litter/clutch size, for 65% of threatened tetrapods. More field studies are needed; however, some progress can be made by digitalizing existing knowledge, by imputing data from related species with similar life histories, and by using information from captive populations. We show that data from zoos and aquariums in the Species360 network can significantly improve knowledge for an almost eightfold gain. Assessing the landscape of limited demographic knowledge is essential to prioritize ways to fill data gaps. Such information is urgently needed to implement management strategies to conserve at-risk taxa and to discover new unifying concepts and evolutionary relationships across thousands of tetrapod species.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume116
Issue number19
Pages (from-to)9658–9664
ISSN0027-8424
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7. May 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2019 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.

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