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Spatial and taxonomic biases in bat records: Drivers and conservation implications in a megadiverse country.

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Biases in data availability have serious consequences on scientific inferences that can be derived. The potential consequences of these biases could be more detrimental in the less-studied megadiverse regions, often characterized by high biodiversity and serious risks of human threats, as conservation and management actions could be misdirected. Here, focusing on 134 bat species in Mexico, we analyze spatial and taxonomic biases and their drivers in occurrence data; and identify priority areas for further data collection which are currently under-sampled or at future environmental risk. We collated a comprehensive database of 26,192 presence-only bat records in Mexico to characterize taxonomic and spatial biases and relate them to species' characteristics (range size and foraging behavior). Next, we examined variables related to accessibility, species richness and security to explain the spatial patterns in occurrence records. Finally, we compared the spatial distributions of existing data and future threats to these species to highlight those regions that are likely to experience an increased level of threats but are currently under-surveyed. We found taxonomic biases, where species with wider geographical ranges and narrow-space foragers (species easily captured with traditional methods), had more occurrence data. There was a significant oversampling toward tropical regions, and the presence and number of records was positively associated with areas of high topographic heterogeneity, road density, urban, and protected areas, and negatively associated with areas which were predicted to have future increases in temperature and precipitation. Sampling efforts for Mexican bats appear to have focused disproportionately on easily captured species, tropical regions, areas of high species richness and security; leading to under-sampling in areas of high future threats. These biases could substantially influence the assessment of current status of, and future anthropogenic impacts on, this diverse species group in a tropical megadiverse country.



Mexico, anthropogenic threats, chiroptera, data gaps, risk hotspots

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Ecol Evol

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Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/K015664/1)