Species richness and representation in protected areas of the Western hemisphere: Discrepancies between checklists and range maps

Lisette Cantú-Salazar, Kevin J. Gaston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: We use data based on species checklists and geographical range maps for 3096 amphibian, 4100 bird and 1878 terrestrial mammal species to explore possible discrepancies in estimates of species richness for protected areas. We predict substantial differences between checklist and range map richness for smaller areas, where higher errors of commission from range maps are likely to occur. We also explore how discrepancies between species inventories and range maps may affect assessments of reserve prioritization and representation. Location: Continental America and associated islands. Methods: We obtained species numbers based on checklists for 619 protected areas from a variety of sources, including management plans, technical reports, environmental assessments, official websites, biodiversity databases and conservation agencies, and evaluated how these correlate with species richness estimates from geographical range map databases, also testing for an effect of reserve size on range map omission and commission errors. Results: Species richness estimates obtained from checklists and range maps showed a significant positive relationship for all three groups of vertebrates, although for most protected areas, estimates of richness from range overlap maps tended to be overestimates, especially for amphibians and mammals in species-rich regions. Protected area size explained little of the discrepancies between checklist and range map richness. Species representation in protected areas based on checklists was in general lower than representation based on range maps. Main conclusions: Our results suggest that range maps, although far from perfect, have the advantage of reducing geographical biases and filling gaps that exist in point locality data at least in species-rich protected areas, while most available checklists in these regions were extremely variable in quality and availability, lacking of basic information on survey design, reliability and completeness. However, range maps will likely overestimate species representation in protected areas and should thus be treated with caution in this context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)782-793
Number of pages12
JournalDiversity and Distributions
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Distribution maps
  • Occurrence
  • Protected areas
  • Representation
  • Species richness
  • Vertebrates

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