Conservation of vertebrate biodiversity in Texas: Setting priorities for reserve selection
Law, Jeffrey J.
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Species extinction rates are increasing throughout the world. A way to combat the global loss of species is through the creation of well-placed wildlife reserves. The principle objective of this study was to determine which areas throughout Texas most efficiently and effectively preserve extant vertebrate biodiversity (amphibians, reptiles, and mammals) if protected in reserves. Secondarily, I quantified the effectiveness of using a particular vertebrate class as a surrogate for others. The Sites Simulated Annealing Algorithm was used to determine areas that effectively preserve biodiversity while minimizing cost. This was accomplished through the use of irreplaceability values. Irreplaceability is equal to the number of times each planning unit is selected in a final solution to the SSAA. The SSAA was run 200 times for each scenario to determine this value. Species distribution maps obtained from the Texas GAP project were the basis for biodiversity data, whereas economic value of land came from the National Agriculture Statistics Service. I identified the best sites to establish reserves with current protected areas forced into the solution and also ignoring current protection status. The areas of the highest conservation concern, based on irreplaceability, were the Edwards Plateau of Central Texas and the Trans Pecos Region of West Texas. Although the irreplaceability values of planning units for incorporation into the reserve systems are correlated for all possible pairs of vertebrate classes, the associations are quite weak.