A preliminary assessment of the effectiveness of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor for protecting potential Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii) habitat in southern Mexico

Authors

  • Eduardo MENDOZA,

    1. Center for Tropical Research, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
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  • Trevon L. FULLER,

    1. Center for Tropical Research, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
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  • Henri A. THOMASSEN,

    1. Center for Tropical Research, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
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    • Institute of Evolution and Ecology, University of Tübingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 28, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany.

  • Wolfgang BUERMANN,

    1. Center for Tropical Research, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
    2. Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
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  • Diana RAMÍREZ-MEJÍA,

    1. School of Biology, Michoacan University of San Nicolas de Hidalgo, Morelia, Mexico
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  • Thomas B. SMITH

    1. Center for Tropical Research, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
    2. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
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Correspondence: Eduardo Mendoza, Instituto de Investigaciones sobre los Recursos Naturales (INIRENA), Umversidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, Av. San Juanito Itzicuaro s/n Col. Nueva Esperanza, Morelia C.P. 58337, Michoacán. Email: mendoza.mere@gmail.com

Abstract

Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii) is one of the most emblematic mammals of Mesoamerica, but like other large-bodied animals, it is facing an increasing risk of extinction due primarily to habitat loss. Mexico's ‘ortion of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC-M) is located in one of the main strongholds for Bairds tapir. To assess the MBC-M's effectiveness for tapir conservation, we estimated the distribution of the species’ potential habitat by applying 2 modelling approaches (random forest and Maxent) to a set of uncorrelated environmental variables and a 157-point presence dataset. We calculated the extent of tapir habitat in within the MBC-M and modelled new corridors and conservation areas, which we compared to the MBC-M. Moreover, we assessed deforestation patterns in the region. Twenty-seven percent of highly suitable tapir habitat occurred in protected areas, 15% in corridors and 58.3% was outside the MBC-M and associated reserves. The spatial configuration of the MBC-M was partially concordant with the modelled set of conservation areas and corridors. The main dissimilarity was that the modelled corridors traversed forests in Belize and Guatemala to connect conservation areas. Analyses of deforestation since 1993 and human population density in the vicinity of the MBC-M indicated that future conservation efforts should give particular attention to the Montes Azules-El Triunfo Corridor due to greater habitat threat. The MBC-M has a great potential to play a prominent role in the conservation of tapir habitat but there is an urgent need to implement management plans that reinforce and complement this conservation initiative.

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