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Sep 09, 2015
Nature Communications
Gaps in digital accessible information (DAI) on species distributions hamper prospects of safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystem services, and addressing central ecological and evolutionary questions. Achieving international targets on biodiversity knowledge requires that information gaps be identified and actions prioritized. Integrating 157 million point records and distribution maps for 21,170 terrestrial vertebrate species, we find that outside a few well-sampled regions, DAI on point occurrences provides very limited and spatially biased inventories of species. Surprisingly, many large, emerging economies are even more under-represented in global DAI than species-rich, developing countries in the tropics. Multi-model inference reveals that completeness is mainly limited by distance to researchers, locally available research funding and participation in data-sharing networks, rather than transportation infrastructure, or size and funding of Western data contributors as often assumed. Our results highlight the urgent need for integrating non-Western data sources and intensifying cooperation to more effectively address societal biodiversity information needs.

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