Lizards as conservation targets in Argentinean Patagonia
priority areas, reptiles, species distribution models, zonation
Patagonia is considered a region of high conservation priority due to its outstanding and representative habitats and high endemism. The purpose of this study is to assess the degree of representation of Patagonian lizards in the existing protected area network, and to identify conservation priority areas that may help expand the current system. We obtained locality data for all Patagonian species from different sources and used them, together with environmental variables, to model their potential distribution. We then used a reserve-selection algorithm to assess the performance of the existing protected area network in representing all lizard species, and to identify new priority areas. Our results indicate that the existing protected areas fail to protect 10 of the 60 species modeled. To protect at least 5% of the geographic distribution of all species, the existing reserve network would need an additional 3.7% of the study area, whereas to protect at least 10% of the distribution of species, an extra 9.9% would be needed. We found eleven main priority areas needed to protect at least 5% or 10% of the distribution of all species of lizards. In conclusion, the current reserve network is not very effective at protecting the lizards of Patagonia, particularly those species with range-restricted distributions. We hope that this contribution will help direct conservation efforts in the region, by maximising the protection of biodiversity.