Refining biodiversity conservation priorities
Although there is widespread agreement about conservation priorities at large scales (i.e., biodiversity hotspots), their boundaries remain too coarse for setting practical conservation goals. Refining hotspot conservation means identifying specific locations (individual habitat patches) of realistic size and scale for managers to protect and politicians to support. Because hotspots have lost most of their original habitat, species endemic to them rely on what remains. The issue now becomes identifying where this habitat is and these species are. We accomplished this by using straightforward remote sensing and GIS techniques, identifying specific locations in Brazil's Atlantic Forest hotspot important for bird conservation. Our method requires a regional map of current forest cover, so we explored six popular products for mapping and quantifying forest: MODIS continuous fields and a MODIS land cover (preclassified products), AVHRR, SPOT VGT, MODIS (satellite images), and a GeoCover Landsat thematic mapper mosaic (jpg). We compared subsets of these forest covers against a forest map based on a Landsat enhanced thematic mapper. The SPOT VGT forest cover predicted forest area and location well, so we combined it with elevation data to refine coarse distribution maps for forest endemic birds. Stacking these species distribution maps enabled identification of the subregion richest in threatened birds-the lowland forests of Rio de Janeiro State. We highlighted eight priority fragments, focusing on one with finer resolved imagery for detailed study. This method allows prioritization of areas for conservation from a region >1 million km2 to forest fragments of tens of square kilometers. To set priorities for biodiversity conservation, coarse biological information is sufficient. Hence, our method is attractive for tropical and biologically rich locations, where species location information is sparse. ©2005 Society for Conservation Biology.
Harris, GM; Jenkins, CN; Pimm, SL
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)