Recent trends of high natural landscape transformation due to human activity jeopardize the integrity and health of ecological systems, posing a threat to NPAs which frequently consist of the only remaining natural habitat of many species. Conservation strategies in Mexico rely heavily on NPAs. As in most developing countries, NPAs in Mexico have been historically inhabited by local communities, many of which have been living in these areas for centuries. We evaluated land use - land cover change LULCC processes in Mexican NPAs from to , assuming a correlation between natural vegetation cover reduction and the loss of biological diversity and the ability to provide ecosystem services.
These included areas transformed due to agriculture, induced and cultivated pastures, forestry plantations, and human settlements. The main results showed that approximately one-fourth of Mexico had been converted to highly transformed areas by Fig. The mean annual rate of change in NPAs was of 0.
The design and implementation of strategies of vegetation recovery such as ecological restoration in areas of particular concern is urgently needed, along with research focusing on causal factors underlying LULCC processes. Policies aimed at sound economic activities based on the sustainable use of natural resources by local people should be supported by government agencies, both in communities living inside and surrounding NPAs.
This is particularly important, as many of these rural communities show conditions of high marginalization Nadal, Such analyses are important inputs for systematic conservation planning of the biological diversity in Mexico. These reductions of natural habitat can extirpate many vertebrates such as mammals from regions severely affected by deforestation Peterson et al. Conversion to agricultural use creates habitat that is typically unsuitable for at-risk mammal species Ceballos et al.
Moreover, Mexican endemic mammals are of special conservation concern because they are underrepresented in international treaties about at-risk species Ceballos et al. However, such data do not indicate how land conversion affects strategies for the conservation of biodiversity Kinnaird et al.
In particular, the effects of land use change on the required size of adequate biodiversity conservation area networks were largely unknown. We hypothesized that deforestation resulting in reduction and fragmentation of natural habitats has a cost in the amount of land that must be placed under protection to represent mammalian biodiversity today.
Consequently, area prioritization for biodiversity conservation is negatively affected by deforestation because a significantly increased area is required to conserve these endemics compared to what would have been adequate 30 years ago before significant loss of forest cover.
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All these factors emphasize the threat to biodiversity conservation posed by deforestation. These trends urge immediate collaborative actions involving academic, governmental, and NGO sectors to prevent and reduce further deforestation nationwide. This quantification required the systematic use of remote- sensed data, GIS platforms, and a variety of algorithms and other computer-aided techniques.
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Moreover, our analyses can be linked with recent theoretical framework in conservation as systematic conservation planning Margules and Sarkar, to facilitate implementation at regional and local scales requiring immediate conservation actions. The findings presented here on the cost of postponing biodiversity conservation in Mexico may also apply to those other hotspots. Testing this hypothesis will require the construction of a multidate databases on LULCC, which are not presently available for most developing countries.
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