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Identifying Critical Vegetation Types for Biodiversity Conservation in the Americas




Habitat assessment, North America, South America, Central America, Caribbean, Habitat mapping, Latin America, Conservation, Biodiversity, vegetation, species distribution


The Americas contain highly biodiverse yet vulnerable ecosystems, with many threatened species inadequately protected. Finer-scale, localized habitat assessments are crucial for effective conservation planning, but continental-scale high-resolution vegetation maps remain limited. This study addresses this gap by identifying critical vegetation types across the Americas using the standardized framework of the International Vegetation Classification (IVC) system at the macrogroup level, representing the finest vegetation classification available across the region, as well as the highest-resolution Area of Habitat (AOH) maps currently available. By combining these high-resolution IVC macrogroup maps with detailed AOH maps, we highlight at-risk vegetation types based on 1) threatened and macrogroup-associated species (species that have at least 50% of their AOH in one macrogroup), 2) current protection levels, and 3) projected threats from land use changes, and 4) develop a conservation value index (CVI) that accounts for all these factors. The results highlighted the remarkable diversity of high conservation value macrogroups across the Americas, emphasizing their significance in regions such as the Andes, montane Mesoamerica, the Caribbean, Brazil's Cerrado, and the Atlantic Forest. Among the highest-scoring macrogroups, the Northern Andean Montane & Upper Montane Humid Forest emerged as critically important, harboring a high number of threatened and macrogroup-associated species. Other macrogroups of immediate conservation concern include the Brazilian Atlantic Montane Humid Forest, Pacific Mesoamerican Seasonal Dry Forest, Caribbean Lowland Humid Forest, and Central Midwest Oak Forest, Woodland and Savanna. However, the study revealed that nearly three-quarters of the over 300 macrogroups in the Americas fall below the global target of 30% protection. Notably, a fifth of all species were macrogroup-associated species, including over 40% of threatened species. Our findings emphasize the need for targeted conservation strategies that consider finer-scale habitat classifications and paired with high-quality species distribution data to guide conservation strategies for biodiversity across the Americas.


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11/10/2023 — Updated on 02/09/2024


How to Cite

Schulte, L., Quoss, L., Comer, P., Lumbierres, M., Conchas, E. O., Pereira, H. M., & Valdez, J. (2024). Identifying Critical Vegetation Types for Biodiversity Conservation in the Americas. In SciELO Preprints. (Original work published 2023)


Biological Sciences


Research data

Schulte, Lea; Quoss, Luise; Comer, Patrick; Lumbierres, Maria; Oceguera , Emmanuel; Pereira, Henrique M.; Valdez, Jose, 2023, "Data for: Identifying Critical Vegetation Types for Biodiversity Conservation in the Americas",, SciELO Data, V2