Scientists have created the 'atlas of life' - the first global review and map highlighting the whereabouts of 31,000 vertebrate species on the Earth. Led by researchers at the University of Oxford in the UK and Tel Aviv University in Israel, 39 scientists produced a catalogue and atlas of the world's reptiles. By linking this atlas with existing maps for birds, mammals and amphibians, the team found many new areas where conservation action is vital. The study, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, produces the new reptile atlas, which covers more than 10,000 species of snakes, lizards and turtles/tortoises. The data completes the world map of 31,000 species of humanity's closest relatives, including around 5,000 mammals, 10,000 birds and 6,000 frogs and salamanders, researchers said. The map has revealed unexpected trends and regions of biodiversity fragility.
These include the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant, inland arid southern Africa, the Asian steppes, and the high southern Andes, researchers said. "Lizards especially tend to have weird distributions and often like hot and dry places, so many of the newly identified conservation priority areas are in dry-lands and deserts," said Uri Roll from Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. "These do not tend to be priorities for birds or mammals, so we could not have guessed them in advance," Roll added. Finding vital areas in arid regions is a good thing because the land is fairly cheap, researchers said. However, deserts and drylands are also home to lots of other modern activities, such as major irrigation projects, huge new solar power developments, and sometimes widespread land degradation, war and conflict, they said. This makes them very challenging environment for conservationists to work, researchers added. The maps have also allowed conservationists to ask whether environmental efforts to date have been invested in the right way, and how they could be used most effectively. "Mapping the distributions of all reptiles was considered too difficult to tackle," said Shai Meiri from Tel Aviv University. "Thanks to a team of experts on the lizards and snakes of some of the most poorly known regions of the world we managed to achieve this, and hopefully contribute to the conservation of these often elusive vertebrates that suffer from persecution and prejudice," Maeri added.
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