Would you ever notice walking around New York City that there are 286 bird species and 49 different mammals within 30 miles of the city limits at any given time, not including the Bronx Zoo? Probably not, but as Chelsea Gutzman points out in Alternatives (Volume 38, Issue 5), that information is worth knowing. Yale professor Walter Jetz has spearheaded the launch of a new website called Map of Life which charts the physical locations of about 25,000 of the Earth’s 1.9 million species. The beta version offers users a simple map to zero in on their desired location, and combs field observation reports and species range maps from sources such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, World Wildlife Fund, and Global Biodiversity Information Facility to provide a surprising snapshot of the biodiversity in that area.
While the current version of the site already offers a wealth of information, Jetz and his team are hoping users will offer feedback on the site so that future versions of Map of Life can offer greater filtering and an even more comprehensive look at current species distribution in a given area, with the ultimate goal of being able to accurately project species distribution. And that, according to Jetz, is the real value of the project as he hopes the site will “support our community in understanding and saving the world’s biodiversity.”