Finding Where Biodiversity Overlaps with Conservation

A mapping project emphasizes the need to protect more places.

To protect biodiversity hotspots, first you have to find them.

North Carolina State University biologist Clinton N. Jenkins plotted, on a world map, where more than 21,000 species occur. Using data from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and from BirdLife International, he showed, at a scale about 100 times finer than ever before, areas rich in birds, mammals, and amphibians. He and colleagues from Duke and Microsoft Research then looked at where those areas overlap with conservation projects.

While 13 percent of the world’s land is protected, 19 percent of these priority areas are. Still, it’s not enough, says Jenkins.

“We protected really big areas because nobody wanted them. We’ve done better recently, but there’s a lot more that we need to do.” Where? For starters, the Andes, Central America, southeast Brazil, Madagascar, and the islands of Southeast Asia.

This story originally ran in the November-December 2013 issue as "Mind the Map."

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