A research team from Yale University and the University of Colorado at Boulder has developed a demo of a project called "Map of Life", which is an ambitious Web-based endeavor designed to show the distribution of all living plants and animals on the planet.
The demo allows anyone with an Internet connection to map the known global distribution of almost 25,000 species of terrestrial vertebrae animals, including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and North American freshwater fish. The database, which continues to expand, already contains hundreds of millions of records on the abundance and distribution of the planet's diverse flora and fauna.
'We're talking about 200 years of different types of knowledge coming from different sources, all documenting the location of species around the world and compiling them in a way that will greatly enhance our knowledge of biodiversity," Robert Guralnick, an associate professor of CU's evolutionary biology department, said about their project.
The map will allow the users to see multiple levels of details for any given species, from what type of environment it lives in to any location where the species have been documented. One function allows users to click at a point on the map and generate a list of vertebrae species in the surrounding area, but according to the team more functions will be added with time.
"It's the where and when of species," Walter Jetz, an associate professor of ecology and biology at Yale, said about the project that he is leading. "It puts at your fingertips the geographic diversity of life. Ultimately, the hope is for this to include hundreds of thousands of animal and plant species, and show how much or indeed how little we know about their whereabouts."
The team is using information from a wide variety of sources, including filed guides, museum collections and wildlife checklists that involve scientists, conservation organizations and "citizen scientists."
By highlighting the known abundance and distribution of species, the researchers hope to identify and fill knowledge gaps, but also offer a tool for the detecting change over time. They expect the map tool will prove useful for professional scientists, wildlife and land managers, conservation organizations and the general public.
[ Via University of Colorado at Boulder news]
Photo courtesy: Yale news