Deakin University

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Biological determinants of research effort on Australian birds: a comparative analysis

journal contribution
posted on 2019-01-01, 00:00 authored by Maree Yarwood, Mike WestonMike Weston, Matthew SymondsMatthew Symonds
Research effort is not uniform among bird species and may be influenced by multiple biological and environmental factors. Using a phylogenetic comparative approach we examined how research effort into Australian birds is related to phylogeny and tested whether key aspects of species’ biology influence this research effort. We quantified research effort directed at Australian birds by using a bibliometric dataset on 100 years of publications in the journal Emu. We found significant phylogenetic signal in research effort with bias towards the orders Passeriformes, Procellariiformes (seabirds), Cuculiformes (cuckoos), Struthioniformes (Emu and Cassowary) and Sphenisciformes (penguins). By contrast Columbiformes (doves and pigeons), Gruiformes (e.g. rails) and Turniciformes (button-quail) are, as a whole, under-studied. Further, we found several significant biological predictors of research effort. There has been a greater number of studies on species with larger body sizes, broader ranges, higher relative abundance (reporting rate), and that are found in urban environments – all characteristics that are likely to make them more obvious and accessible. We conclude that, in a continent with a relatively low density of ornithologists and many areas which are difficult to access, species that are encountered more readily are more likely to be studied. This pattern renders smaller, range-restricted species inhabiting remote areas more likely to experience the difficulties associated with data deficiency. Some or many of these species may have more perilous conservation statuses than currently recognised.



Emu: Austral ornithology






38 - 44


Taylor & Francis


Abingdon, Eng.





Publication classification

C Journal article; C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

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