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Florida Scientist


Prevailing dogma on comparative biodiversity of the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) stems mainly from one claim about ichthyofauna and two about avifauna. The extensive network of birdwatchers, clarity of bird taxonomy, long history of the Christmas Bird Count (CBC), and burgeoning database on make birds excellent for geographic comparison. The 1985 claim that Merritt Island CBCs are often the ‘‘most speciose count’’ in the U.S. is unfounded. CBCs there in 1970–1985 never had the highest count, even compared to the nearby Cocoa site. For the 114th CBC (2013), it ranked 11th in Florida and 44th nationally. The 1989 claim that IRL has ‘‘the most diverse avifauna in the United States’’ also is unfounded. Of 543 hotspots (.250 species) in coastal continental states on in December 2019, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge had 300 species; but 110 other sites listed more species of bird. Because government agencies, legislators, media, and the public rely on scientists for information, scientific statements must rely on evidence. Scientists should abandon the current dogma about the high relative biodiversity of the IRL. Studies should focus on increasing our knowledge of diversity of all taxa; and geographic comparisons should be attempted with great caution.

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