Trends and biases in African large carnivore population assessments: identifying priorities and opportunities from a systematic review of two decades of research.
Strampelli P., Campbell LA., Henschel P., Nicholson SK., Macdonald DW., Dickman AJ.
African large carnivores have undergone significant range and population declines over recent decades. Although conservation planning and the management of threatened species requires accurate assessments of population status and monitoring of trends, there is evidence that biodiversity monitoring may not be evenly distributed or occurring where most needed. Here, we provide the first systematic review of African large carnivore population assessments published over the last two decades (2000-2020), to investigate trends in research effort and identify knowledge gaps. We used generalised linear models (GLMs) and generalised linear mixed models (GLMMs) to identify taxonomic and geographical biases, and investigated biases associated with land use type and author nationality. Research effort was significantly biased towards lion (Panthera leo) and against striped hyaena (Hyaena hyaena), despite the latter being the species with the widest continental range. African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) also exhibited a negative bias in research attention, although this was partly explained by its relatively restricted distribution. The number of country assessments for a species was significantly positively associated with its geographic range in that country. Population assessments were biased towards southern and eastern Africa, particularly South Africa and Kenya. Northern, western, and central Africa were generally under-represented. Most studies were carried out in photographic tourism protected areas under government management, while non-protected and trophy hunting areas received less attention. Outside South Africa, almost half of studies (41%) did not include authors from the study country, suggesting that significant opportunities exist for capacity building in range states. Overall, large parts of Africa remain under-represented in the literature, and opportunities exist for further research on most species and in most countries. We develop recommendations for actions aimed at overcoming the identified biases and provide researchers, practitioners, and policymakers with priorities to help inform future research and monitoring agendas.