SPECIES' DISTRIBUTION MODELING IN PRACTICE: FLAGSHIP SPECIES AND REGIONAL CONSERVATION PLANNING
Keywords:Amazon, cock-of-the-rock, ecological niche modeling, GARP, Maxent
AbstractConservation of rare or endemic species is a multifaceted matter, especially whenever knowledge gaps in species' distribution and anthropogenic pressures converge. We combined Geographic Information Systems and ecological niche modeling tools with field data to characterize the habitat types used for different behavioral activities and to identify important areas for conservation of a charismatic bird endemic to northeast South America, the Guianan cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola rupicola). Using species' occurrences and climatic, topographic, and remotely sensed vegetation variables we developed potential distribution models at two scales: (1) broad geographic scale (northern South America), based on georeferenced occurrences obtained from literature and natural history museum specimens, and (2) local scale, based on precise occurrences (GPS coordinates) recorded in the field (Caverna do Maroaga Protected Area, Amazonas, Brazil). We identified six priority areas for the conservation of the cock-of-the-rock corresponding to high environmental suitability and lowest anthropogenic pressure, measured as distance from urban areas and highways (>5 km). Protecting the areas identified in this study from anthropogenic threats such as hunting and selective logging will help to preserve not only the cock-of-the-rock, but also the biodiversity of the whole mosaic of habitats in the region. Our results were incorporated in a regional management plan developed by state agencies and non-governmental organizations. Geographic Information Systems and ecological niche modeling techniques combined with on the ground, local surveys can be useful in species conservation efforts, for planning new inventories, prioritizing areas to be protected, and for creating ecological corridors.