Combining camera trap surveys and IUCN range maps to improve knowledge of species distributions

Cheng Chen, Alys Granados, Jedediah F. Brodie, Roland Kays, T. Jonathan Davies, Runzhe Liu, Jason T. Fisher, Jorge Ahumada, William McShea, Douglas Sheil, Jayasilan Mohd-Azlan, Bernard Agwanda, Mahandry H. Andrianarisoa, Robyn D. Appleton, Robert Bitariho, Santiago Espinosa, Melissa M. Grigione, Kristofer M. Helgen, Andy Hubbard, Cindy M. HurtadoPatrick A. Jansen, Xuelong Jiang, Alex Jones, Elizabeth L. Kalies, Cisquet Kiebou-Opepa, Xueyou Li, Marcela Guimarães Moreira Lima, Erik Meyer, Anna B. Miller, Thomas Murphy, Renzo Piana, Rui Chang Quan, Christopher T. Rota, Francesco Rovero, Fernanda Santos, Stephanie Schuttler, Aisha Uduman, Joanna Klees van Bommel, Hilary Young, A. Cole Burton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reliable maps of species distributions are fundamental for biodiversity research and conservation. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) range maps are widely recognized as authoritative representations of species’ geographic limits, yet they might not always align with actual occurrence data. In recent area of habitat (AOH) maps, areas that are not habitat have been removed from IUCN ranges to reduce commission errors, but their concordance with actual species occurrence also remains untested. We tested concordance between occurrences recorded in camera trap surveys and predicted occurrences from the IUCN and AOH maps for 510 medium- to large-bodied mammalian species in 80 camera trap sampling areas. Across all areas, cameras detected only 39% of species expected to occur based on IUCN ranges and AOH maps; 85% of the IUCN only mismatches occurred within 200 km of range edges. Only 4% of species occurrences were detected by cameras outside IUCN ranges. The probability of mismatches between cameras and the IUCN range was significantly higher for smaller-bodied mammals and habitat specialists in the Neotropics and Indomalaya and in areas with shorter canopy forests. Our findings suggest that range and AOH maps rarely underrepresent areas where species occur, but they may more often overrepresent ranges by including areas where a species may be absent, particularly at range edges. We suggest that combining range maps with data from ground-based biodiversity sensors, such as camera traps, provides a richer knowledge base for conservation mapping and planning.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14221
Pages (from-to)e14221
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2024


  • Animal Distribution
  • Animals
  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation of Natural Resources/methods
  • Ecosystem
  • Geographic Mapping
  • Mammals/physiology
  • Photography


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