Despite being the focus of an international research effort spanning decades, the spatial distribution of southern African scarab beetles remains poorly documented. As well as reinforcing the magnitude of the challenge facing biodiversity scientists, this raises real concerns about best practice conservation strategies in the absence of detailed distribution information. However, dung beetles appear to be well represented in established conservation areas. This apparent contradiction could be ascribed to anthropogenic transformation, successful conservation efforts, the presence of dung generalists and reserve-biased or mesic-biased dung beetle collection efforts. It is suggested that all of the above contribute to the observed pattern to varying degrees. The implications of selecting areas that are either rich in species, contain rare species or contain taxonomically distinct species from a group whose taxonomy is well known but for which inadequate distribution data exist are explored. Best practice, in the face of inadequate data, appears to revolve around a subtle interplay between advantages and disadvantages associated with data interpolation techniques, reserve selection algorithms that use criteria more robust than database rarity (such as taxonomic distinctiveness) and the long-term economic costs of proceeding with the data at hand versus investing in biological surveys.
- Conservation area selection
- Taxonomic distinctiveness