Oaxaca, located in south-west México within the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot, holds exceptionally high biodiversity for several taxa, including mammals. It has four decreed natural protected areas (NPAs) covering 5% of its total area, but only three of these, covering only 0.2% of the area, are strictly protected as National Parks. The current study develops ecological niche models for 183 terrestrial mammals for use as biodiversity surrogates in a systematic conservation planning exercise. Forty-five of these species were selected on the basis of their being either endangered or threatened or otherwise listed under the Mexican Red List or because they were endemic to either Oaxaca or to Mexico. The niche models were constructed with a machine-learning algorithm (GARP, Genetic Algorithm for Rule-Set Prediction) and refined by restricting each model to sites with suitable vegetation and habitat patches contiguous with known occurrences of the species. If the entire predicted geographical distribution of each of the 45 species listed above is put under protection, the entire state of Oaxaca gets included. Therefore, we imposed different constraints on the maximum area that can be put under protection (5–30% of the area of Oaxaca) and selected nominal conservation area networks based on different percentage representation targets for the species’ modelled distributions based on their conservation status (10–100%). The area selection utilized a rarity- and complementarity-based algorithm (in the ResNet software package). The goal was to have as many as possible of the 45 species at risk meet their specified representation targets in the budgeted area. The methods developed here combine ecological niche modelling and area prioritization algorithms for integrated conservation planning in a protocol that is suitable for other highly biodiverse regions.
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