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, 8 (8), e70907

Mapping Global Diversity Patterns for Migratory Birds


Mapping Global Diversity Patterns for Migratory Birds

Marius Somveille et al. PLoS One.


Nearly one in five bird species has separate breeding and overwintering distributions, and the regular migrations of these species cause a substantial seasonal redistribution of avian diversity across the world. However, despite its ecological importance, bird migration has been largely ignored in studies of global avian biodiversity, with few studies having addressed it from a macroecological perspective. Here, we analyse a dataset on the global distribution of the world's birds in order to examine global spatial patterns in the diversity of migratory species, including: the seasonal variation in overall species diversity due to migration; the contribution of migratory birds to local bird diversity; and the distribution of narrow-range and threatened migratory birds. Our analyses reveal a striking asymmetry between the Northern and Southern hemispheres, evident in all of the patterns investigated. The highest migratory bird diversity was found in the Northern Hemisphere, with high inter-continental turnover in species composition between breeding and non-breeding seasons, and extensive regions (at high latitudes) where migratory birds constitute the majority of the local avifauna. Threatened migratory birds are concentrated mainly in Central and Southern Asia, whereas narrow-range migratory species are mainly found in Central America, the Himalayas and Patagonia. Overall, global patterns in the diversity of migratory birds indicate that bird migration is mainly a Northern Hemisphere phenomenon. The asymmetry between the Northern and Southern hemispheres could not have easily been predicted from the combined results of regional scale studies, highlighting the importance of a global perspective.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Figure 1
Figure 1. Example of the distribution of a migratory species (Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata).
This figure is illustrating: (A) the complete distribution (in brown); (B) subdivision into breeding (red), resident (green) and non-breeding (blue) components; (C) July distribution (including breeding and resident components); (D) January distribution (including non-breeding and resident components); (E) non-permanent distribution (breeding and non-breeding components). Photo by JJ Harrison/Wikimedia Commons.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Global patterns of species richness for birds.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Global patterns for migratory species.
(A) Difference in local species richness between July and January, with positive values (in red) indicating areas that are richer in July, and negative values (in blue) indicating areas that are richer in January; (B) richness in migratory species (i.e., non permanent-species, that are only present seasonally in each area); and (C) the proportion of migratory (non-permanent) species.
Figure 4
Figure 4. Migratory species diversity as a function of latitude.
(A) Difference in local species richness between July and January; (B) richness in migratory (non-permanent) species; and (C) proportion of migratory (non-permanent) species.
Figure 5
Figure 5. Global diversity patterns for threatened and narrow-range migratory species.
(A) Richness in threatened migratory species; (B) richness in narrow-range migratory species.

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The authors have no support or funding to report.