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Biodiversity potential of Nothofagus forests in Tierra del Fuego (Argentina): tool proposal for regional conservation planning

Martínez Pastur, Guillermo, Peri, Pablo L., Soler, Rosina M., Schindler, Stefan, Lencinas, María Vanessa
Biodiversity and conservation 2016 v.25 no.10 pp. 1843-1862
Nothofagus pumilio, biodiversity, conservation areas, databases, decision support systems, ecotones, forest types, land use, landscapes, livestock production, niches, planning, surveys, timber production, topography, understory, vascular plants, Argentina
It is difficult to map and quantify biodiversity at landscape level in areas with low data availability, despite demand from decision-makers. We propose a methodology to determine potential biodiversity pattern using habitat suitability maps of the understory plant species with highest cover and occurrence frequency in the three different forests types of Tierra del Fuego (Argentina). We used a database of vascular plants from 535 surveys from which we identified 35 indicative species. We explored more than 50 potential explanatory variables to develop habitat suitability maps of the indicative species, which were combined to develop a map of the potential biodiversity. Correlation among environmental, topographic and forest landscape variables were discussed, as well as the marginality and the specialization of the indicative species. We detected differences in the niches of the species prevailing in the three forest types. The developed map of potential biodiversity uncovered hotspots of biodiversity in the ecotone of Nothofagus pumilio and N. antarctica as well as in the wettest part of the mixed N. pumilio–N. betuloides forests. It allowed thus to identify forest areas with different conservation potential and can be readily used as a decision support system for conservation and management strategies at different scales including the identification of land-use conflicts (e.g. of biodiversity with timber production and livestock) and the development of a network of protected areas, which currently does not cover the forests of highest conservation value.