The implications of different species concepts for describing biodiversity patterns and assessing conservation needs for African birds


  • Shaun Dillon,

  • Jon Fjeldså

S. Dillon and J. Fjeldså (correspondence:, Zool. Museum, Univ. of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, DK 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark.


It has been suggested that switching from the widely used Biological Species Concept to a Phylogenetic Species Concept, would result in the appearance of hitherto neglected patterns of endemism. The problem has mainly been analyzed with respect to endemic taxa and for rather limited geographical regions, but will here be analysed for the entire resident avifauna of sub-Saharan Africa. A database of African bird distributions was re-edited to create two new datasets representing 1572 biological species and 2098 phylogenetic species. Species richness patterns were virtually identical with the two taxonomies, and only subtle changes were found in the geographical variation in range-size rarity sum. However, there were some differences in the most range-restricted species, with increased complexity of long-recognized centres of endemism. Overall, then, the large-scale biogeographic patterns are robust to changes in species concepts. This reflects the aggregated nature of endemism, with certain areas acting as “species pumps” and large intervening areas being characterised by a predominance of widespread species which distribute themselves in accordance with contemporary environmental conditions. The percentages of phylogenetic and threatened species captured in a BSC near-minimum set of 64 grid-cells and a PSC near-maximum set, with the same number of grid-cells, are very similar.