Washington: A new study has suggested that most of the world`s ‘missing’ or undiscovered species live in regions already identified by scientists as conservation priorities.
"We show that the majority of the world`s ``missing species`` are hiding away on some of the most threatened landscapes in the world," said Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation at Duke University`s Nicholas School of the Environment.
"This considerably increases the number of threatened and endangered species around the world,” he added.
With limited resources and accelerating threats to nature, conservation biologists have long sought to identify areas around the world where effective conservation actions could save the most species. Biodiversity hotspots — places with extreme rates of habitat loss as well as unusually high numbers of endemic species – are priorities.
The problem is that knowledge of species is seriously incomplete — many species are as-yet unknown.
"We know we have an incomplete catalogue of life," said lead author Lucas Joppa of Microsoft Research in Cambridge, U.K., who received his PhD in ecology from Duke in 2009.
"If we don`t know how many species there are, or where they live, then how can we prioritize places for conservation? What if the places we ignore now turn out to be those with the most unknown species?” added Joppa.
To address this dilemma, Joppa and his co-authors created a model that incorporates taxonomic effects over time to estimate how many species of flowering plants, which form the basis of the biodiversity hotspots concept, remain to be discovered in regions around the world. They then compared those estimates with regions currently identified as global conservation priorities. The two sets matched.
Six regions already identified by conservation scientists as hotspots – Mexico to Panama; Colombia; Ecuador to Peru; Paraguay and Chile southward; southern Africa; and Australia – were estimated by the models to contain 70 percent of all predicted missing species.
Only two regions with high estimates of missing species – the region from Angola to Zimbabwe, and the northern Palearctic, which encompasses parts of Europe and Asia – contained no biodiversity hotspots.
The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.