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Conserv Biol. 2007 Dec;21(6):1423-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2007.00827.x.

The effectiveness of Iberian protected areas in conserving terrestrial biodiversity.

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Departamento de Biodiversidad y Biología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC, C/José Gutiérrez Abascal, 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain.


The Iberian Peninsula harbors about 50% of European plant and terrestrial vertebrate species and more than 30% of European endemic species. Despite the global recognition of its importance, the selection of protected areas has been ad hoc and the effectiveness of such choices has rarely been assessed. We compiled the most comprehensive distributional data set of Iberian terrestrial plant and vertebrate species available to date and used it to assess the degree of species representation within existing protected areas. Existing protected areas in Spain and Portugal reasonably represented the plant and animal species we considered (73-98%). Nevertheless, species of some groups (amphibians, reptiles, birds, and gymnosperms) did not accumulate in protected areas at a rate higher than expected by chance (p > 0.05). We determined that to conserve all vertebrate and plant species in the Iberian Peninsula, at least 36 additional areas are needed. Selection of additional areas for conservation would be facilitated if such areas coincided with sites of community importance (SCI) designated under the European Commission Habitats Directive. Additional areas required for full representation of the selected plant and animal species all coincide with SCI in Spain. Nevertheless, the degree of coincidence varies between 0.3% and 74.6%, and there is a possibility that important areas for conservation occur outside the SCI. Our results support the view that current SCI can be used for prioritization of areas for conservation, but a systematic reevaluation of conservation priorities in Spain and Portugal would be necessary to ensure that effective conservation of one of European's most important biodiversity regions is achieved.

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