Where the Birds Are

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Science  11 Oct 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5592, pp. 327
DOI: 10.1126/science.298.5592.327a

The selection of areas for species conservation has generally been conducted in the absence of detailed knowledge of the population dynamics of the endangered organisms. Thus, it has not been possible to predict with confidence the likelihood of the persistence or extinction of species in nature reserves. Araújo et al. present a potentially simple solution. Their rationale is that the probability of occurrence of a species in a particular locality at a particular time is likely to predict its likelihood of persistence. The probability of occurrence reflects factors such as the suitability of the habitat and the ability of the species to disperse into it. Using long-term data (two 4-year periods, 20 years apart) on the distribution of passerine birds in Britain, they find that the probability of absence in 10 km × 10 km tracts during the second period was negatively correlated to the probability of occurrence in the first period. Thus, greater success in conservation, in terms of minimizing extinction risk, may be achieved by selecting areas where the probability of occurrence is maximized. — AMS

Proc. R. Soc. London B269, 1971 (2002).

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