Washington: A study, led by researchers at the University of Southhampton, in partnership with Memorial University of Newfoundland, goes beyond just counting the types of animals there are and instead accounts for the differences between wildlife and their roles in the environment.
This information is important to conservation efforts, as it enables the identification of places where there are only a few species performing a role, as opposed to regions where many species carry out similar roles
The study saw scientists combining multiple databases of information concentrating on six biologically important attributes of the roles animals play (traits).
The selected traits included factors such as diet, daily activity and body size for 15,485 bird and mammal species.
From these, they were able to build a global picture of traits for different animals – mapping which areas in the world had many overlapping roles and would therefore benefit from habitat conservation, as well as for those which had more unique, vulnerable ones and would benefit from species-focussed conservation.
Interestingly, the study – the first to examine both birds and mammals together in this way – found many overlaps between these two groups, even when taking into account flight and daytime and nocturnal behaviour.
Speaking about it, lead author Robert Cooke, from the University of Southampton, said “This is a new way of looking at how we can maximise effective conservation efforts and we hope that it will provide governments and relevant charities worldwide with the big picture on which areas are most at risk from losing the functionality of birds and mammals in the environment – thus helping them to concentrate their efforts in the most effective directions.”
The researchers hope more detailed work can be carried out in the future to look more closely at how species interact and effect each other. Findings for this latest study are published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.