Identifying Sites for Protected Areas Based on Endemic Species Richness and Threat in Madre de Dios, Peru
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Species extinction rates 100 to 1000 pre-human levels are threatening the planet’s biodiversity. The Amazon rainforests are of particular importance to protecting species because of their extremely high levels of biodiversity. Faced with losses from deforestation of 20% in the last 40 years and expecting to lose another 20% in the next 20 years, governments and conservationist organizations must begin planning in order to mitigate species extinctions and the destruction of ecosystems. This master’s project creates a GIS-based planning tool for conservation practitioners that locates and prioritizes new protected areas in the Madre de Dios watershed in southeastern Peru. The tool is based on distributions of bird and mammal species endemic to Peru and Bolivia, ecological systems, and development threats. This study (1) locates centers of high endemic species richness (2) locates centers of high endemic species richness for threatened species falling in the IUCN Red List categories of Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable (3) and models conservation values based on (1) and (2) to identify and locate centers of conservation value, This study also (4) identifies and locates ecological systems with less than 10% found in the Peruvian parks system (gap analysis), (5) models threat values, (6) models conservation priorities by overlaying the conservation values model (3) and the threats model (5) to produce a model that prioritizes areas for conservation planning. Lastly, model (5) is overlain with the gap analysis (4), to locate areas that are of both high conservation value and contain underrepresented ecological systems. The results indicated that the eastern slope of the Andes, at elevations between 2000 and 4000 meters hold the highest levels of both endemic species richness and underrepresented ecological systems. These areas of high conservation value are well protected in Manu National Park but lack protection further east and to the south of Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. The results indicate an urgent need to create new national parks in this area, prioritizing those watersheds that are under threat from development, high in endemic species richness, and contain under protected ecological systems. However, the likelihood of new parks is low since colonists live in this area and new roads are being constructed. The pro-development political climate also presents barriers. Taking into account the challenges, the unmatched levels of biodiversity and accelerating development make this region one of the world’s top conservation priorities.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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