Southeast Asian biodiversity is under threat. Multiple mechanisms have been advocated to develop regional conservation priorities. Assaying the protected area coverage of biodiversity centers for these taxa is essential. Until recently the lack of data prevented any large-scale detailed analysis on regional biodiversity patterns, making evaluating the efficiency and adequacy of protected areas impossible.
Dr. Alice Hughes of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) conducted a study to explore how current knowledge of species ranges based on IUCN “expert drawn” maps compares to those produced through species distribution models. The researcher also discussed the potential limitations, assumptions and challenges of both utilizing both approaches.
Using the best available information, the researcher developed maps of the ranges of 2471 vertebrate (birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians) and 1198 plant species, and explored patterns of biodiversity and the adequacy of protection.
The researcher found that surrogates and indicator species provide fairly limited transferable information in terms of congruence with other taxa, and that effective targeting of conservation is likely to require multi-taxa inventories and evaluation. The percentage of species ranges protected areas also varied by taxa, from a maximum of 40% to reptiles with a mean of only 13.5% of species ranges protected.
The researcher’s models showed that patterns of diversity even between different avian families vary markedly. When compared overall to other vertebrate taxa, the patterns of diversity differ substantially. The IUCN hotspots covered a much larger portion of the region and potentially overestimated the ranges of many species.
Without protection many of these regions will see the loss of forests, and increased hunting due to infrastructural growth and increased accessibility.
The researcher thus suggested that further efforts are needed to better protect centers of diversity. The inclusion of IUCN “expert maps” and maps produced through species distribution models into regional conservation planning may greatly assist in increasing the effectiveness of conservation.
The study entitled “Mapping priorities for conservation in Southeast Asia” has been published in Biological Conservation.
Alice C. Hughes Ph.D Principal Investigator
Centre for Integrative Conservation, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Menglun, Xishuangbanna, Yunnan 666303, China