Conserving species first requires knowing where they live. For hundreds of years biologists have conducted field inventories to map the distribution of plants and animals. Yet our understanding of the distribution of most species, especially in remote regions, is still incomplete. Field work can be time-intensive, costly, and even hazardous. Good inventories tell us where particular species have been found, but not where else they are likely to occur.
Unlike prior studies, where conservation efforts were limited to the distribution of one single group of species as if it could serve as a substitute for all biodiversity, our team of scientists produced distribution maps for birds, mammals, plants and amphibians. Different groups of species have different distributions and thus require distinctive conservation priorities. For instance, areas of endemism for amphibians usually occur far from, and at lower elevations than, areas of endemism for birds or mammals.
To accomplish that, NatureServe combined reliable locational data with technological and analytical tools to create distribution models of a particular species by analyzing the environmental characteristics of its known localities. These mathematically defined models were then combined with known constraints based on the species life history to predict where else on the landscape the species might occur.
The project produced maps of predicted distributions of 782 endemic species - 435 plants, 177 amphibians, 115 birds and 55 mammals.
Amphibians: Amphibians showed a major diversity peak in central Cochabamba Department, Bolivia. Further analysis revealed the existence of equally important areas in Amazonas and San Martín Departments in northern Peru where large numbers of microendemic species occurred.
Mammals: Richness of endemic species of mammals was highest in a long band at high elevations in the Andes from Cuzco, Peru, to Cochabamba, Peru. The region of the La Libertad-San Martín departmental border in the Cordillera Central was also important for narrow-ranging endemics.
Birds: Bird endemism peaked in six areas ranging from the Carpish Hills region of Huánuco Department, Peru, to the Cordillera de Cocapata-Tiraque in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Despite numerous previous analyses of bird endemism in the Andes, our predictive modeling methods identified two previously unrecognized areas the western Cordillera de Vilcabamba and the region along the Río Mapacho-Yavero east of Cuzco, both in Peru.
Centro de Datos para la Conservación de la Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina
CORBIDI – Centro de Ornitología y Biodiversidad
Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza
Herbario Nacional de Bolivia
Museum of Natural Science - Louisiana State University
Missouri Botanical Garden
Museo de Historia Natural/Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos
Museo Nacional de Historia Natural/Colección Boliviana de Fauna