Shortfalls and opportunities in terrestrial vertebrate species discovery
Mario R Moura et al.Nat Ecol Evol.2021 May.
Much of biodiversity remains undiscovered, causing species and their functions to remain unrealized and potentially lost in ignorance. Here we use extensive species-level data in a time-to-event model framework to identify taxonomic and geographic discovery gaps in terrestrial vertebrates. Biological, environmental and sociological factors all affect discovery probability and together provide strong predictive ability for species discovery. Our model identifies distinct taxonomic and geographic unevenness in future discovery potential, with greatest opportunities for amphibians and reptiles, and for Neotropical and Indo-Malayan forests. Brazil, Indonesia, Madagascar and Colombia emerge as holding greatest discovery opportunities, with a quarter of potential discoveries estimated. These findings highlight the importance of international policy support for basic taxonomic research and the potential of quantitative models to aid species discovery.