Is the current network system of protected areas in the Atlantic Forest effective in conserving key species of bryophytes?

We combined distribution data of bryophyte species with protected areas in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, using models of potential distribution of species, in order to assess the effectiveness and representativeness of Conservation Units for bryophyte species. We performed potential distribution models for ten bryophyte species classified as bio-indicators for environmental quality and/or endemic to the Atlantic Forest, or endemic to Brazil (key species). Data from online herbarium collections, literature, and sampling were used to estimate the potential distribution of the species, based on the MAXENT method. We performed an intersection between the maps with > 50% of environmental suitability for the occurrence of the studied species and the maps of the Brazilian protected areas. Areas with the greatest potential presence of bryophyte species not superimposed on protected areas were considered areas of gaps in protection. The habitat suitability of the models for nine species was explained by the Mean Diurnal Temperature Range. The consensus map of high environmental suitability for all species showed significant gaps in knowledge about their distribution. However, three centers of potential distribution were recognizable: one in the Northeast, one Central and another one in the Southeast. The total potentially suitable area overlapped with 83 Conservation Units (only 27%), less than adequate for efficient conservation of the species. The Central Corridor was the region with the highest environmental suitability but also has only a few Conservation Units in the Atlantic Forest, and is therefore a priority for conducting inventories and creating reserves.
Keywords: Conservation Units, environmental suitability, gap analysis, Maximum Entropy algorithm, potential distribution models, Tropical Forest

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Mércia P.P. Silva, Luciana H.Y. Kamino and Kátia C. Pôrto.

Publicação Open Access Journal – Tropical Conservation Science Vol.7 (1): 61-74, 2014.