Birds are valuable indicators of global patterns in biodiversity

Bontebok, © Billie Muller/

In sub-Saharan Africa, the great majority of vertebrate and plant diversity is captured by the network of 22 Endemic Bird Areas identified in this region.

Proportion of species captured in different groups by 22 EBAs in sub-Saharan Africa
Burgess et al. (2002)

Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs) successfully capture c.85–90% of the total species diversity of mammals, snakes, amphibians and plants in mainland sub-Saharan Africa (see figure) (Burgess et al. 2002, Burgess and Lovett in litt. 2003). In addition, EBAs include no less than 96% of the avian species diversity in this region (Burgess et al. 2002). This is achieved through 22 EBAs covering just 7.9% of the land area. EBAs are clearly excellent indicators of vertebrate and plant diversity patterns in sub-Saharan Africa, due to the common ecological principles and evolutionary histories on which species distributions are based. This congruence of species diversity across widely differing taxonomic groups is likely to be similar in other parts of the world for which data are not yet available. This is good news, meaning that we can use the EBA network to set priorities for biodiversity conservation in general. In other words, conserving habitats based on bird diversity will effectively capture an approximately equivalent complement of total terrestrial species diversity. This pattern is very useful because data on bird distribution and endemism are often better than those for any other taxa..

Related Case Studies in other sections


Burgess, N. D., Rahbek, C., Larsen, F. W., Williams, P. and Balmford, A. (2002) How much of the vertebrate diversity of sub-Saharan Africa is catered for by recent conservation proposals? Biol. Conserv. 107: 327–339.

Compiled: 2004    Copyright: 2004   

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2004) Birds are valuable indicators of global patterns in biodiversity. Downloaded from on 06/12/2023