GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION OF THE THREATENED PALM Euterpe edulis Mart. IN THE ATLANTIC FOREST: IMPLICATIONS FOR CONSERVATION

Aline Cavalcante de Souza, Jayme Augusto Prevedello

Abstract


The combination of species distribution models based on climatic variables, with spatially explicit analyses of habitat loss, may produce valuable assessments of current species distribution in highly disturbed ecosystems. Here, we estimated the potential geographic distribution of the threatened palm Euterpe edulis Mart. (Arecaceae), an ecologically and economically important species inhabiting the Atlantic Forest biodiversity hotspot. This palm is shade-tolerant, and its populations are restricted to the interior of forest patches. The geographic distribution of E. edulis has been reduced due to deforestation and overexploitation of its palm heart. To quantify the impacts of deforestation on the geographical distribution of this species, we compared the potential distribution, estimated by climatic variables, with the current distribution of forest patches. Potential distribution was quantified using five different algorithms (BIOCLIM, GLM, MaxEnt, Random Forest and SVM). Forest cover in the biome was estimated for the year 2017, using a recently-released map with 30 m resolution. A total of 111 records were kept to model climatic suitability of E. edulis, varying from 6 to 1500 m a.s.l and spanning almost the entire latitudinal gradient covered by the Atlantic Forest (from 7.72º S to 29.65º S). Based on climatic suitability alone, ca. 93 million hectares, or 66% of the area of the Atlantic Forest, would be suitable for the occurrence of E. edulis. However, 76% of this climatically suitable area was deforested. Therefore, currently, only ca. 15% of the biome retains forest patches that are climatically suitable for E. edulis. Our analyses show that E. edulis has suffered a dramatic loss of potential distribution area in the Atlantic Forest due to widespread deforestation. Our results provided updated information on the distribution of E. edulis, and may be used to identify which forested and deforested areas could receive priority in future conservation and restoration efforts.


Keywords


climatic suitability; deforestation; habitat loss; palm heart; species distribution modelling

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.4257/oeco.2019.2303.19

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