Scientists often refer to global maps showing the location of ‘biodiversity hotspots' to target regions for conservation efforts that might protect the greatest number of species. Such maps are typically constructed by overlaying maps of individual species' geographic ranges. However, as any amateur naturalist realizes, a species is not guaranteed to be present at every point within the range shown in a field guide. In fact, the distribution of species within its range is highly variable and often quite patchy, suggesting that range map overlays may overestimate and potentially distort true patterns of biodiversity. Birds are one of the few groups for which detailed survey data exist across an entire continent. Survey data can be paired with range maps to answer potentially valuable questions about avian diversity and distribution. First and foremost, this study will examine biodiversity patterns derived from both range maps and surveys. The extent to which these patterns differ has implications for which regions are viewed as most important for conservation. This study will also identify the key traits of species that explain why some species occur uniformly throughout their range while other species are more patchily distributed. Ultimately, this project will provide a better understanding of the link between individual species' distributions and patterns of biodiversity.
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