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Letter falling within tropical latitudes but that do the greatest proportion of global biodiver-
Neglect of the not adhere to classical stereotypes of
tropical ecosystems (e.g., cold montane
sity and the fact that they have been
important in the development of many
Tropics Is or dry desert ecosystems) are often con- classic ecological [4_TD$IF]and evolutionary theo-
sidered non-tropical. Although this may ries, it would be logical to assume that
Widespread in seem pedantic, until ecologists agree on research efforts in ecology and evolution
Ecology and what constitute tropical versus non-tropi- are being directed toward the tropical
cal regions and ecosystems, discussions realm. However, this is simply not true.
Evolution: A of geographical biases in global research
Comment on efforts remain somewhat stied. Regard-
less of their denition, the tropics
Major Geographic Biases in
Ecology and Evolution: Neglect
Clarke et al. represent a signicant portion of the of the Tropics
Earths land surface (e.g., approximately As observed by Clarke et al. [1] in studies
James T. Stroud1,2,*,@ and 36% between 23.4 ) and are home to of BEF, the tropics are consistently and
Kenneth J. Feeley3 the vast majority of species. dramatically neglected in almost all elds
of ecology and evolution. Global ecologi-
One Sentence Summary Tropical versus Non-Tropical cal data sets largely mirror each other in
Neglect of the tropics is a widespread Extinction Risk their sampling biases. Of the >700 mil-
problem across ecology and evolution, It is widely hypothesized that tropical spe- lion georeferenced occurrence records
and not specic to the eld of biodiversity cies and ecosystems will be at a greater in the Global Biodiversity Information
and ecosystem function. overall risk from both short- and long- Facility [45_TD$IF]2(GBIF) approximately 30% are
term global stressors than species in from the USA, with the majority (>80%)
In a recent paper, Clarke et al. [1] present non-tropical (i.e., temperate) regions. stemming from only 10 countries, of
evidence for a bias against the tropics in Rates of habitat loss, alteration, and frag- which only one is tropical [5]. Similarly,
studies of biodiversityecosystem func- mentation are highest in the tropics rela- studies of core ecological and evolution-
tion (BEF). Unfortunately, BEF is not the tive to other areas, constituting the ary topics such as biogeochemistry [6],
only eld in ecology and evolution that greatest immediate threat to [43_TD$IF]tropical bio- taxonomy [7], interspecic competition
suffers from gross geographical sampling diversity and ecosystems. Similarly, those [8], and paleoecology [9] all underrepre-
biases; rather, this is just one example of a species under threat from poaching for sent the tropics, as well as those crisis-
more widespread lack of studies from the medicine and the bushmeat trade are driven disciplines such as conservation
tropics that needs to be recognized and heavily skewed toward the tropics. Under and climate change biology [10]. Within
accounted for especially in the face of long-term global stressors, such as the tropics, many of those habitats
growing conservation challenges. climate change, tropical species are also considered atypical are also subject to
considered under elevated risk relative to gross undersampling [11].
What Is Tropical? non-tropical species [2]. In response to
Surprisingly, a clear denition of what contemporary climate change, many It should be noted that these geographic
constitutes tropical versus non-tropical temperate species have been observed sampling biases do not reect a lack of
ecosystems does not exist. This may to shift distributional ranges to track pre- interest in the tropics or that tropical sys-
seem illogical to many ecologists and ferred climatic conditions, an option not tems are somehow less important than
evolutionary biologists given the exis- available to tropical species due to the temperate systems. Indeed, many
tence of strict latitudinal boundaries relat- absence of a latitudinal temperature gra- foundational ideas and theorems of ecol-
ing to direct solar exposure (e.g., between dient [3]. Even if able to migrate, many ogy and evolutionary biology are derived
23.4 North and South of the equator; the tropical species may still nd themselves from tropical ecosystems [12]. However,
tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, respec- at a higher extinction risk compared with many researchers and research institu-
tively); however, this criterion is frequently temperate species due to higher levels of tions are based in temperate regions, with
ignored or altered based on local climate ecological specialization [4]. relatively few dedicating the additional
conditions. For example, even Clarke time and money needed to conduct trop-
et al. [1] in their review categorize the Given the myriad evidence of the threats ical studies. One consequence of this is
tropics using the latitudinal limits of facing tropical species at both the short that the vast majority of tropical studies
23.5 , a widely used yet slightly inaccu- (e.g., habitat change and loss) and long result from well-established research
rate measure (and one frequently inated (e.g., climate change) temporal scales, stations (e.g., Barro Colorado Island in
up to 30 ). Conversely, those regions alongside the fact that the tropics support Panama and La Selva Biological Station

Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Month Year, Vol. xx, No. yy 1


TREE 2263 No. of Pages 2

5. Collen, B. et al. (2008) The tropical biodiversity data gap:


in Costa Rica), which allow researchers to when used to understand and model addressing disparity in global monitoring. Trop. Conserv.
bypass many of these local logistical global ecological and evolutionary Sci. 1, 7588

hurdles. phenomena. 6. Powers, J.S. et al. (2011) Geographic bias of eld obser-
vations of soil carbon stocks with tropical land-use
changes precludes spatial extrapolation. Proc. Natl. Acad.
Tropical Field Studies Are a 1
Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International Sci. U. S. A. 108, 63186322
University, Miami, FL 33199, USA 7. Jones, O.R. et al. (2009) Using taxonomic revision data to
Priority 2 estimate the geographic and taxonomic distribution of
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens, Coral Gables, FL
At its most basic, increased research 33146, USA undescribed species richness in the Braconidae (Hyme-
3 noptera: Ichneumonoidea). Insect Conserv. Divers. 2,
effort in the tropics is desperately needed. Department of Biology, University of Miami, Miami, FL
204212
33146, USA
We understand, however, that the alloca- @ 8. Schoener, T.W. (1983) Field experiments on interspecic
Twitter: @jamesTstroud
tion of research effort is not dictated solely competition. Am. Nat. 122, 240285
9. Vilhena, D.A. and Smith, A.B. (2013) Spatial bias in the
by the choices of researchers, but is *Correspondence: jamesTstroud@gmail.com (J.T. Stroud).
marine fossil record. PLoS One 8, e74470
intimately linked with logistical difculties, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2017.06.006
10. Feeley, K.J. et al. (2016) Most global reviews of species
as well as research policies and funding, responses to climate change are not truly global. Divers.
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