Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 7, pp 1793–1828 | Cite as

Systematic conservation assessment for the Mesoamerica, Chocó, and Tropical Andes biodiversity hotspots: a preliminary analysis

  • Sahotra SarkarEmail author
  • Víctor Sánchez-Cordero
  • Maria Cecilia Londoño
  • Trevon Fuller
Original Paper


Using IUCN Red List species as biodiversity surrogates, supplemented with additional analyses based on ecoregional diversity, priority areas for conservation in Mesoamerica, Chocó, and the Tropical Andes were identified using the methods of systematic conservation planning. Species’ ecological niches were modeled from occurrence records using a maximum entropy algorithm. Niche models for 78 species were refined to produce geographical distributions. Areas were prioritized for conservation attention using a complementarity-based algorithm implemented in the ResNet software package. Targets of representation for Red List species were explored from 10 to 90% of the modeled distributions at 10% increments; for the 53 ecoregions, the target was 10% for each ecoregion. Selected areas were widely dispersed across the region, reflecting the widespread distribution of Red List species in Mesoamerica, Chocó, and the Tropical Andes, which underscores the region’s importance for biodiversity. In general, existing protected areas were no more representative of biodiversity than areas outside them. Among the countries in the region, the protected areas of Belize performed best and those of Colombia and Ecuador worst. A high representation target led to the selection of a very large proportion of each country except Colombia and Ecuador (for a 90% target, 83–95% of each country was selected). Since such large proportions of land cannot realistically be set aside as parks or reserves, biodiversity conservation in Mesoamerica, Chocó, and the Tropical Andes will require integrative landscape management which combines human use of the land with securing the persistence of biota.


Area prioritization Ecological niche models Mesoamerica Tropical Andes Chocó Reserve selection algorithms ResNet Systematic conservation planning 



Animal species data were obtained from MaNIS (, last accessed 4 April 2007), HerpNET (, last accessed 4 April 2007), ORNIS (, last accessed 4 April 2007), and REMIB (Red Mundial de Información sobre Biodiversidad;, last accessed 4 April 2007). Additional records were obtained from Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (, last accessed 4 April 2007). Plant species data were obtained from the University of Missouri Botanical Garden, W3TROPICOS (, last accessed 22 January 2007)—thanks are due to Nancy Shackelford for processing these data. MCL thanks the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT) for support and J. Nicolás Urbina-Cardona for assistance with the preparation of the Tables and Figures and for comments on an earlier draft. This work was supported by NSF Grant No. SES-0645884, 2007–2009 (“From Ecological Diversity to Biodiversity,” PI: SS). TF acknowledges support from the Marion Elizabeth Eason Endowed Scholarship for the Study of Biology and the University Continuing Fellowship from the University of Texas.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sahotra Sarkar
    • 1
    Email author
  • Víctor Sánchez-Cordero
    • 2
  • Maria Cecilia Londoño
    • 2
  • Trevon Fuller
    • 1
  1. 1.Biodiversity and Biocultural Conservation Laboratory, Section of Integrative BiologyUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Departamento de Zoología, Instituto de BiologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexicoMexico

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