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Conservation gaps and priorities of range-restricted birds in the Northern Andes
  • Wilderson Medina
Wilderson Medina
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The ongoing destruction of habitats in the Tropics accelerates the current rate of species extinction. Range-restricted species are exceptionally vulnerable, yet we have insufficient knowledge about their protection. Species’ current distribution, range size, and protection gaps are key parameters to determine conservation priorities. Here, we identified priority range-restricted bird species and their conservation hotspots in the Northern Andes. We employed maps of the Area of Habitat, AOH, that better reflect their current distributions than existing maps. We estimated protection within each species’ AOH and for the cumulative distribution of all 355 range-restricted birds found across the Northern Andes. For the latter, we also calculated protection across the elevational gradient. We estimated how much additional protection community lands would contribute if they were focused on conservation. AOHs ranged from 40 to 200,000 km2. We identified four conservation priority hotspots based on cumulative species richness: the number of AOHs stacked per unit area. These hotspots are high-resolution mapped representations of Endemic Bird Areas for the Tropical Andes that we consider critically important. Protected areas cover only 31% of the cumulative AOH, but community lands (Indigenous and Afro-Latin American lands) could add 22% more protection. Half of our 335 species have ranges smaller than their published estimates, yet only 22% of these are deemed as threatened by IUCN. We identified 45 species as top conservation priorities. Most of these concentrate in areas of low protection near community lands and at middle elevations where, on average, only 34% of the land is protected. We highlight the importance of collaborative efforts among stakeholders: governments are entailed to support private and community-based conservation practices to protect the region with the most range-restricted birds worldwide.