Understanding how we built our knowledge on species descriptions is especially important in biodiversity hotspots, since those regions potentially harbour many undescribed-endemic species that are already threatened by intensification of human activities. We compiled an extensive dataset on anuran, lizard, and snake assemblages in the Atlantic Forest (AF) hotspot, South America, to evaluate the role of geographic and socioeconomic factors on herpetofaunal species discoveries. We applied spatial autoregressive methods under a multimodel inference framework to quantify the extent to which human occupation, economic development, on-ground accessibility, biodiversity appeal (i.e. interest of first researching preserved areas), and expertise availability explain geographical discovery trends of distinct herpetofaunal groups. More populous regions show more recently described species, particularly in southeastern AF where regional expert availability and economic development are greater. The influence of human occupation on geographical discovery trends carries the impact of historical human colonization in the AF, which happened mainly over endemism-rich mountainous regions in its southeastern section. Similarly, the biodiversity appeal effect is linked to the current reserve network in the AF that was only established after the massive human disturbance of lowland forest regions. Overall, our findings indicate that low-populated areas with low on-ground accessibility should be prioritized in future studies in the AF, since these are where the taxonomic impediment is more likely to occur.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Apr 1, 2018
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