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Does size matter? Conservation implications of differing woody population sizes with equivalent occurrence and diversity of species for threatened savanna habitats

Mews, Henrique A., Pinto, José Roberto R., Eisenlohr, Pedro V., Lenza, Eddie
Biodiversity and conservation 2014 v.23 no.5 pp. 1119-1131
cerrado, ecosystems, genetic variation, habitats, population size, savannas, soil, species diversity, threatened species, woody plants, Brazil
The Cerrado stands out from other savannas of the world for hosting the highest biodiversity and for its ongoing massive destruction. Savannas on plain relief and with deep soils (DS) in Central Brazil have been widely converted into agropastoral ecosystems. In contrast, savannas on steep relief with shallow and rocky soils (RS) have been considered as future biodiversity refuges in Central Brazil. In this study, we show that adjacent DS and RS savanna sites (each with ten 1-ha plots) differ based on their woody species population sizes, but not based on species occurrence or diversity. In addition, we discuss the implications of these results for species conservation. Our research indicates that the DS and RS savannas are complementary, but not equivalent, regarding their representation of savanna vegetation in Central Brazil. We hypothesize that if RS savannas become the only refuges for savannic vegetation, widespread biodiversity losses will occur in the short term (through loss of exclusive and habitat-specialist species) and long term (due to fragmentation, reductions in population size and loss of genetic variability). Thus, we suggest that the consideration of savannas on distinct substrates should be considered for improving conservation decision-making and initiatives and can be beneficial when expanding or creating new conservation units.