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Predicting global abundance of a threatened species from its occurrence: implications for conservation planning

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Abstract Aim 

Global abundance is an important characteristic of a species that is correlated with geographical distribution and body size. Despite its importance these estimates are not available since reliable field estimates are either expensive or difficult to obtain. Based on the relationship between a species’ local abundance and distribution, some authors propose that abundance can be obtained through spatial distribution data from maps plotted at different scales. This has never been tested over the entire geographical range of a species. Thus, the aim of this study was to estimate global abundance of the Neotropical primate Brachyteles hypoxanthus (northern muriqui) and compare the results with available field estimates. Location 

From southern Bahia to Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo states, in the Brazilian Atlantic rain forest. Methods 

We compiled 25 recent occurrence localities of B. hypoxanthus and plotted them in grid cells of five different sizes (1, 25, 50, 75 and 100 km per side) to evaluate the performance and accuracy of abundance estimates over a wide range of scales. The abundance estimates were obtained by the negative binomial distribution (NBD) method and corrected by average group size to take into account primate social habits. To assess the accuracy of the method, the predicted abundances were then compared to recent independent field estimates. Results 

The NBD estimates were quite accurate in predicting B. hypoxanthus global abundance, once the gregarious habits of this species are taken into account. The predicted abundance estimates were not statistically different from those obtained from field estimates. Main conclusions 

The NBD method seems to be a quick and reliable approach to estimate species abundance once several limiting factors are taken into account, and can greatly impact conservation planning, but further applications in macroecological and ecological theory testing needs improvement of the method.
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Keywords: Atlantic forest; Brachyteles hypoxanthus; geographical range; negative binomial distribution; primates

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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