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Protection of Mammal Diversity in Central America

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Central America is exceptionally rich in biodiversity, but varies widely in the attention its countries devote to conservation. Protected areas, widely considered the cornerstone of conservation, were not always created with the intent of conserving that biodiversity. We assessed how well the protected-area system of Central America includes the region's mammal diversity. This first required a refinement of existing range maps to reduce their extensive errors of commission (i.e., predicted presences in places where species do not occur). For this refinement, we used the ecological limits of each species to identify and remove unsuitable areas from the range. We then compared these maps with the locations of protected areas to measure the habitat protected for each of the region's 250 endemic mammals. The species most vulnerable to extinction—those with small ranges—were largely outside protected areas. Nevertheless, the most strictly protected areas tended toward areas with many small-ranged species. To improve the protection coverage of mammal diversity in the region, we identified a set of priority sites that would best complement the existing protected areas. Protecting these new sites would require a relatively small increase in the total area protected, but could greatly enhance mammal conservation.
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Keywords: biodiversidad; biodiversity; conservation priorities; distribución de especies; hotspot; mammal; mamífero; mapa de distribución; prioridades de conservación; protected area; range map; sitio de importancia para la conservación; species distribution; área protegida

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Duke University, Box 90328, Durham, NC 27708-0328, U.S.A., Email: [email protected] 2: SAIC/National Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS), 47914 252nd Street, Sioux Falls, SD 57198-0002, U.S.A.

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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