Are species coexistence areas a good option for conservation management? Applications from fine scale modelling in two steppe birds

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Abstract

Biotic interactions and land uses have been proposed as factors that determine the distribution of the species at local scale. The presence of heterospecifics may modify the habitat selection pattern of the individuals and this may have important implications for the design of effective conservation strategies. However, conservation proposals are often focused on a single flagship or umbrella species taken as representative of an entire assemblage requirements. Our aim is to identify and evaluate the role of coexistence areas at local scale as conservation tools, by using distribution data of two endangered birds, the Little Bustard and the Great Bustard. Presence-only based suitability models for each species were built with MaxEnt using variables of substrate type and topography. Probability maps of habitat suitability for each species were combined to generate a map in which coexistence and exclusive use areas were delimitated. Probabilities of suitable habitat for each species inside coexistence and exclusive areas were compared. As expected, habitat requirements of Little and Great Bustards differed. Coexistence areas presented lower probabilities of habitat suitability than exclusive use ones. We conclude that differences in species' habitat preferences can hinder the efficiency of protected areas with multi-species conservation purposes. Our results highlight the importance of taking into account the role of biotic interactions when designing conservation measurements.

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Tarjuelo, R., Morales, M. B., Traba, J., & Delgado, M. P. (2014). Are species coexistence areas a good option for conservation management? Applications from fine scale modelling in two steppe birds. PLoS ONE, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0087847

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