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Ecol Appl. 2007 Mar;17(2):569-78.

Conservation priorities for mammals in megadiverse Mexico: the efficiency of reserve networks.

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  • 1Instituto de Ecologia, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.


A major goal of conservation biologists is to identify critical areas for the conservation of biological diversity and then strategically include them in an efficient system of reserves. In general, however, reserve networks have been selected for different objectives, and most countries lack an evaluation of their reserves' ability to represent a percentage of the national diversity. This paper evaluates the effectiveness of a network of reserves to represent the species of mammals in Mexico. The focus of the analyses is on species and site level, evaluating the representation of all terrestrial mammals in the 30 most important reserves. The representation of all species, endemic species, endangered species, and species with restricted distributions in the reserves was assessed and compared. Endemic or endangered species with restricted distributions were expected to be less represented in reserves than were widespread species. The most important reserves for the conservation of mammals were determined with the use of complementarity analyses. Priority sites for the representation of all the species currently absent from the reserve network were then selected. The results have broad applications for conservation. First, 82% of the mammal species from Mexico were represented in the reserve network, which covers a small portion (3.8%) of the country. Second, this percentage is certainly larger as several reserves were not evaluated due to a lack of data. A priority for a national conservation strategy could be to conduct biological surveys in those reserves lacking inventories to evaluate their contribution to conservation. Third, in spite of its demonstrated value, Mexico's reserve network can be improved by designating complementary areas. Additional priority sites, where reserves are required to represent most gap species in the network, were identified. Finally, it is clear that this reserve network has limitations for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services at regional scales. A comprehensive conservation strategy has, therefore, to incorporate mechanisms that enhance the value of human-dominated landscapes for the maintenance of biodiversity.

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