University of Wisconsin–Madison
Spatial Analysis For Conservation and Sustainability

Conservation prioritization when species distribution data are scarce

Download Politi et al. 2021 Landscape and Urban Planning

Prioritizing candidate areas to achieve species richness representation is relatively straightforward when distributions are known for many taxa; however, it may be challenging in data-poor regions. One approach is to focus on the distribution of a few charismatic species in areas that overlap with areas with little human influence, and another is to expand protection in the vicinity of existing protected areas. We assessed the effectiveness of these two approaches for protecting the potential distribution of 21 bird species affiliated with the piedmont dry forest in Argentina. We assessed the degree to which current protected areas met the representation target for each bird species. We found that 8% of the piedmont dry forest and 11% of the extent of occurrence of the bird species within piedmont dry forest were protected, indicating a shortfall. Areas with little human influence that overlap with the distribution of charismatic species had a higher number of bird species than areas with high human influence. Areas within the vicinity of protected areas performed similarly to priority areas, but included high human influence areas. We suggest that a prioritization scheme based on areas of charismatic species distribution that overlap with areas of low human influence can function as an effective surrogate for bird species affiliated with the piedmont dry forest in Argentina. Our results have operational implications for conservation planning in those regions of the world where biodiversity data are poor, but where decisions and actions to sustain biodiversity are urgently needed.