Museum Collections Predict Species Abundance in The Wild
Scientists develop method to count outdoor species from indoor museum records
Museum collections of plants and critters—small mammals, fish, insects and amphibians—are a good reflection of most species’ relative abundance in the wild, finds a surprising new study by University of Vermont researchers and international scientists, who analyzed 1.4 million field observations and 73,000 museum records of over 22,00 species.
The new method developed by the team will enable scientists to use museum records to identify species that are declining over time and may need extra protection to prevent them from going extinct. It will also allow conservation biologists to study how the commonness and rarity of each species changes through time or from disturbances such as urbanization and climate change.
Published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution journal, the findings can help to address some challenges with traditional conservation approaches. The first step in protecting species is determining if they are rare or common—and if their populations are declining—but the problem is that large-scale field surveys are time-consuming and expensive.