Delimiting floristic biogeographic districts in the Cerrado and assessing their conservation status

Renata D. Francoso, Kyle Dexter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Cerrado is a biodiversity hotspot in central Brazil that is the largest expanse of savanna in the Neotropics. Here, we aim to identify and delimit biogeographic districts within the Cerrado, to provide a geographic framework for conservation planning and scientific research prioritization. We used data from 588 sites with tree species inventories distributed across the entire Cerrado. To identify districts, we clustered sites based on their similarity in tree species composition. To investigate why districts differ in composition, we (1) determined the proportion of tree species in different districts that derive from other biomes, to assess the influence of neighbouring biomes upon geographically marginal districts and (2) assayed key climatic differences between districts, to test the effect of environmental factors upon compositional differences. We found seven biogeographic districts within the Cerrado. Marginal districts have a large proportion of tree species characteristic of Amazonia and Atlantic Forest, but the Cerrado endemic species are also important. Further, districts differed significantly for multiple climatic variables. Finally, to provide a preliminary conservation assessment of the different districts, we assessed their rate of land conversion and current coverage by protected areas. We found that districts in the south and southwest of the Cerrado have experienced the greatest land conversion and are the least protected, while those in the north and northeast are less impacted and better protected. Overall, our results show how biogeographic analyses can contribute to conservation planning by giving clear guidelines on which districts merit greater conservation and management attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Early online date27 Jul 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jul 2019

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