Distribution patterns of flora and fauna in southern Chilean Coastal rain forests: Integrating Natural History and GIS
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- Smith-Ramírez, C., Díaz, I., Pliscoff, P. et al. Biodivers Conserv (2007) 16: 2627. doi:10.1007/s10531-006-9073-2
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Knowledge of species richness centers is necessary for the design of conservation areas. In this study, we present a GIS analysis of two years of field data on animal and plant diversity distributions in evergreen, coastal rain forests of southern Chile (39°30′–41°25′ S). Despite their high endemism, these forests have remained largely unprotected. Field records were complemented with data from museum collections and scientific literature. We used selected environmental variables (evapotranspiration, altitude) and, in some cases, forest types as predictors of species distributions. Our study focused on the distribution of forest bryophytes, vascular plants, soil invertebrates, amphibians and birds. We generated distributional maps for each taxa based on their field records in the study area, complemented by natural history information, except in the case of bryophytes and soil invertebrates. In general, species richness was lower at 600 m elevation or above for all the taxa studied. Species richness tends to increase in the northern sector of the study area. We observed a greater richness of vascular plants near rivers and streams, and noted important floristic differences between west and east-facing slopes of the Coastal Range, with more species in the oriental side. Because species in high altitude forests are not a subset of those found at lower elevations, we propose that conservation strategies should prioritize the protection of the entire altitudinal gradient of the southern Coastal Range, especially in the more diverse oriental and northern sectors.