EDITORIAL

Valuing collections

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Science  12 Dec 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6215, pp. 1310
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa4115

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Summary

This year brought dismal news about the world's birds: They are vanishing at an alarming rate. Across 25 European countries, about 420 million fewer birds are present today than in 1980, a 20% decrease, especially in the 36 most common species. In North America, The State of the Birds Report 2014 indicates that over the past 40 years, the numbers of individuals across 33 species are also down by hundreds of millions. Such assessments highlight the urgency of determining the precise causes of these declines. The knowledge gleaned from the Avian Phylogenomics Project, coupled with ecological and population analyses, should provide new insights into the factors that influence bird declines and extinctions. As the project progresses over the next few years, over 60% of tissue samples for the avian analyses will be derived from archived museum collections. In this era of deteriorating natural environments, a pressing challenge is to continue to build scientific collections for future needs.