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Spatial patterns in species distributions reveal biodiversity change

Wilson, R.J., Thomas, C.D., Fox, R., Roy, D.B. and Kunin, W.E. (2004) Spatial patterns in species distributions reveal biodiversity change. Nature, 432 (7015). pp. 393-396. ISSN 0028-0836

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Interpretation of global biodiversity change is hampered by a lack of information on the historical status of most species in most parts of the world1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Here we show that declines and increases can be deduced from current species distributions alone, using spatial patterns of occupancy combined with distribution size. Declining species show sparse, fragmented distributions for their distribution size, reflecting the extinction process; expanding species show denser, more aggregated distributions, reflecting colonization. Past distribution size changes for British butterflies were deduced successfully from current distributions, and former distributions had some power to predict future change. What is more, the relationship between distribution pattern and change in British butterflies independently predicted distribution change for butterfly species in Flanders, Belgium, and distribution change in British rare plant species is similarly related to spatial distribution pattern. This link between current distribution patterns and processes of distribution change could be used to assess relative levels of threat facing different species, even for regions and taxa lacking detailed historical and ecological information.

Item Type: Article
Institution: The University of York
Academic Units: The University of York > Biology (York)
Depositing User: York RAE Import
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2009 14:10
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2009 14:10
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature03031
Status: Published
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Identification Number: 10.1038/nature03031
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7070

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