Every good animal monitoring project requires a solid data foundation, and researchers monitoring animals traditionally have two avenues to procure the data: they can either go out and collect data manually, which is incredibly time consuming and resource-intensive (not to be discounted, one must start somewhere), or they can find a well-established dataset that contains at least some basic information on their species of interest. The World Wildlife Fund’s Terrestrial ecoregion maps provide global distribution data for mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and birds, open to researchers and the public alike for download. The WWF started this dataset in 2012 and updates it frequently with contributions from other researchers who are collecting data on the ground. The goal of this data is to provide free and available data for conservationists, governments, and other bodies trying to assess the distribution boundaries of individual species and create plans for particular species conservation. The WWF openly acknowledges that this dataset is rather restrained in the categories of terrestrial species that it has data on, but is actively looking to expand their dataset. Other issues with the dataset include its download procedure, in which one needs to have the right software and hardware to visualize and manipulate the data, which depending on the resources available to different conservation initiatives or governments worldwide, can definitely inhibit the use of this data. There is also the issue of the data itself; bounding distribution ranges is an inherently subjective process. Very few species have defined areas where their activity is confined, so those who use the dataset should be conscientious of the liberties taken in drawing range boundaries.


Biodiversity, Data, Ecological Modelling, Ecological Monitoring