Modelling species distributions to protect biodiversity hotspots in Southeast Asia

Study suggest expanding methodology to better prioritise regional conservation planning in Southeast Asia

Data resources used via GBIF : 300,000 species occurrences
Hylobates lar
Lar gibbon (Hylobates lar) observed by David Renoult in Surat Thani, Thailand. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Southeast Asia is a global biodiversity super-hub, home to four of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Unfortunately, the region is also a hotspot of threat due to hunting and deforestation, and a lack of baseline data makes assessing efficacy of protected areas highly challenging.

In this study, a researcher from the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden uses GBIF-mediated occurrences of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians in mainland Southeast Asia combined with environmental data to create distribution models of all species. Based on the models, the author shows that about half of the most diverse areas for mammals and amphibians fall within existing protected areas. For birds, however, the number is around only 20 per cent, and for reptiles even lower, about 10 per cent.

Comparing the models to expert-drawn IUCN range maps, the author find large disparities, as the models predict areas of maximum richness that are only a fraction of those indicated by the IUCN maps, suggesting that including modelling approaches could improve effectiveness of conservation planning.


Hughes AC (2017) Mapping priorities for conservation in Southeast Asia. Biological Conservation. Elsevier BV 209: 395–405. Available at: