Wildfinder Database

Detailed Description of the WildFinder Database

Introduction to the ecoregion map
The WildFinder database contains presence/absence data for the world's terrestrial amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, by terrestrial ecoregion. Ecoregions are defined as "relatively large units of land that contain a distinct assemblage of natural communities and species, with boundaries that approximate the original extent of the natural communities prior to major land use change" (Olson et al. 2001). The 825 terrestrial ecoregions are nested within fourteen biomes with similar major vegetation features (e.g., tropical moist forests, temperate grasslands) and within eight biogeographic realms with similar geography, fauna, and flora (e.g., Neotropical, Nearctic). A full GIS coverage and data set for these ecoregions can be downloaded at: http://www.worldwildlife.org/publications/wildfinder-database

Mangrove ecoregions do not contain data because their land area is quite small and often poorly mapped; hence species lists compiled from overlaying range maps would artificially inflate species totals. A further nine ecoregions lack data, and while this is unfortunate regionally, we are confident that the omissions will not affect most large-scale studies of distribution patterns (land area of the worlds ecoregions = 134,735,751 km2: land area of the nine excluded ecoregions = 236,100 km2 or 0.175%). Because vast portions of Greenland and Antarctica contain no terrestrial vertebrates, the interior sections of both land masses are not mapped as ecoregions (Olson et al. 2001; Lamoreux et al. 2006).

The species data
These data are based on the ranges of extant species. Species that are introduced, present as human commensals, vagrants, or passage migrants were not recorded. The species master lists have come from standard sources:

Modifications to these lists have been made at the suggestion of regional and taxonomic experts.

Historic ranges
Where available, we used historic ranges of species (i.e., approximate distribution at 1500 AD) instead of current distributions. We did so for several reasons. First, the inclusion of historic ranges is consistent with the concept of ecoregions as reflecting historic or potential vegetation (Olson et al. 2001). Second, using historic ranges makes the comparisons among groups more uniform. And third, including historic ranges in the database is important for an indication of possible regions for reintroduction. Globally extinct species are excluded from the database because original ranges are often difficult to estimate for these species and because they cannot be reintroduced anywhere.

Overall, the use of historic ranges is unlikely to change the outcome of most large-scale analyses, because such maps are only available for approximately 200 species out of more than 26,000. It is interesting to note that most of the range contractions that are documented (having published maps at different time periods) relate to large mammals (and to small mammals in Australia). This fact is likely due to large mammals being of relatively large economic, cultural, and ecological importance.

How the data were compiled
Data were gathered from numerous scientific works, field guides, or directly from experts (see lists of references and expert sources (PDF format). Some degree of subjectivity is to be expected when compiling lists for any region. In general, we have tried to err on the side of inclusion rather than risk missing species within a given ecoregion. This approach will lead to errors of commission (i.e., false presence), in contrast to compilations of museum records, which could result in errors of ommision (i.e., false absence). This decision was driven by our intent to inform conservation planners by providing them a comprehensive list of species they need to consider. The resulting species list can be confirmed with finer-scale data, especially when species are listed as endemics or appear as threatened or data deficient on the IUCN Red List.

Again, the database contains only presence/absence data for each species in each ecoregion. When the data are mapped, a species present in an ecoregion will appear to be found throughout it, even though it perhaps is found in only one portion. Therefore, maps in WildFinder typically overestimate the geographic range for species, and they should be interpreted with this in mind: they depict a set of ecoregions in which the species occurs, not a precise range map for the species. For example, WildFinder reports waterbirds in the Sahara Desert and broadleaf forest mammals in Luzon pine forests. These and many other species that appear out of place are in fact present, but only in microhabitats within the ecoregion. Species were not coded to indicate their habitat preferences in any way, so more detailed data will be required to locate species within ecoregions.

Errors and a plea for help
We have done our best to compile accurate species lists for each ecoregion, but like any large database, WildFinder still contains many errors. Active, knowledgeable users are likely to spot some. The most efficient way to improve the database is to enlist your help in identifying and rectifying these mistakes. So please contact us with corrections or comments to the data at: [email protected]. We will update the database continuously online, and will make a new version of the entire database available for download every six months with all known errors corrected.

Citation information:
Information from this website should be cited as:

World Wildlife Fund. 2006. WildFinder: Online database of species distributions, ver. Jan-06. www.worldwildlife.org/WildFinder

We would like to thank the all of the people who have made this effort possible: Within WWF:

Idea for WildFinder: Eric Dinerstein and David OlsonScientific coordination: John Lamoreux, John Morrison, Taylor Ricketts, and Wesley WettengelDatabase and web coordination: Wesley WettengelDatabase programmer: Greg BrennanChief of contracts (and expert with contacts): Meseret TayeData acquisition and entry: Tom Allnutt, Christine Burdette, Neil Burgess, Lauriane Cayet, Jennifer D'Amico Hales, Eric Dinerstein, Karen Ernst, John Lamoreux, Colby Loucks, Meghan McKnight, John Morrison, David Olson, Susan Palminteri, Jolie Patterson, Taylor Ricketts, Erika Schaub, Jan Schipper, Holly Strand, Dawn Turney, Emma Underwood, Wesley Wettengel

People outside WWF who contributed unpublished data, shared their expertise, and technical assistance:

Allen Allison, Steven Anderson, Lucy Aquino, Teresa Ávila-Pires, Pamela Beresford, Donald Broadley, Rafe Brown, Jonathan Campbell, Fernando Castro, Ed Colijn, Luis Coloma, Ronald Crombie, Indraneil Das, Ignacio de La Riva, Arvin Diesmos, William Duellman, Michael Evans, Lee Fitzgerald, Jon Fjelds, J. Ramon Formas, Darrel Frost, Steffan Galster, Angus Gascoigne, Taran Grant, Myroula Hadjichristoforou, Louis Hansen, Ron Heyer, Robert Hoffmann, Marinus Hoogmoed, Roberto Ibanez, Javier Icochea, Djoko Iskandar, Nelson Jorge da Silva, Gunther Kohler, Cengiz Kurtonur, Enrique La Marca, Jose Langone, Esteban Lavilla, Fernando Lobo, Stefan Letters, Steve Madge, Otavio Marques, Marcio Martins, James McCranie, Roy McDiarmid, Ricardo Montero, Juan Carlos Ortiz, John Pilgrim, Gabriel Pinto, Carsten Rahbek, Steffen Reichle, Enrique Richard, Gordon Rodda, Jay Savage, Norman Scott, Gustavo Scrocchi, Weston Sechrest, Simon Stuart, Robert Tizard, Peter Uetz, Peter Paul van Dijk, Oscar Flores Villela, Larry David Wilson, Yan Xie, Alberto Yanosky, Er-mi Zhao, George Zug

Special thanks to:
The Species Survival Commission (SSC) of IUCN - The World Conservation Union

Particularly to the Red List Programme of SSC And to the Global Amphibian Assessment and Global Mammal Assessment, both are joint ventures of SSC & the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science at Conservation International, see:

Wings of the Americas of The Nature Conservancy

Zoological Museum of the University of Copenhagen