, Volume 16, Issue 9, pp 2649-2675

Identification of Biodiversity Conservation Priorities using Predictive Modeling: An Application for the Equatorial Pacific Region of South America

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Abstract

We used predictive modeling of species distributions to identify conservation priority areas in the equatorial Pacific region of western Ecuador and northwestern Peru. Museum and herbarium data and predictive models of species distributions are increasingly being used to assess the conservation status of individual species. In this study, we assembled occurrence data for 28 species of vascular plants, birds, and mammals to assess the conservation priorities of the set of natural communities that they represent. Environmental variables were used to predict the species’ distributions using correlative modeling as an alternative to point data, which has been the traditional approach to identify critical areas. Specific priority sites for conservation were identified using an area-selection algorithm based on simulated annealing. Four scenarios of prioritization were created using different criteria for the spatial compactness of the selected sites and fragmentation of remnant habitat. The results provide a preliminary assessment of conservation priorities for the dry ecosystems of the Equatorial Pacific region, and will serve as guidelines to focus future fieldwork.