Aim We present the first attempt of mapping global conservation priorities for two snake clades, Viperidae and Elapidae. We compared the global conservation priorities of each clade with the nine global conservation schemes defined by Brooks et al. to evaluate how effective these schemes are in ensuring the preservation of viperid and elapid biodiversity.
Methods Based on range maps of 228 species of Viperidae and 224 species of Elapidae, we used systematic conservation planning methods of complementarity and irreplaceability to generate a set of conservation networks under two cost scenarios: (1) minimizing conservation-human development conflicts and (2) maximizing environmental suitability for high snake richness. Analysis of variance was used to investigate whether the mean irreplaceability of cells matching the areas covered by each of the nine global prioritization schemes in Brooks et al. was higher than the mean irreplaceability of cells located outside these areas.
Results Overall, few areas showed irreplaceability higher than 0.5 based on a goal of representing 25% of the species’ ranges. The conservation networks generated in expectation of low conflicts between human development and conservation were quite different from the networks of high environmental suitability. Areas with higher irreplaceability coincided with the regions covered by global schemes of Endemic Bird Areas (for Viperidae and Elapidae) and High-Biodiversity Wilderness (for Elapidae).
Main conclusions Our findings indicated the existence of viable conservation opportunities for these two snake groups. This study can be viewed as a way to overcome, at least in part, the recent criticism concerning the independent development of several global conservation priorities by evaluating which groups of organisms are better represented in each of them. More than simply determining priorities for snakes’ conservation, our analyses showed that the development of parallel priority-setting initiatives can be reconciled with those strategies for which financial resources are already being designed.