This study evaluates how a modelling approach to determine areas of suitable habitat for the Critically Endangered Albany cycad Encephalartos latifrons can assist in systematic conservation planning for this and other rare and threatened cycads. A map distinguishing suitable from unsuitable habitat for E. latifrons was produced and important environmental predictors (climate, geology, topography and vegetation) influencing the suitable habitat were estimated. The maximum entropy (MaxEnt) modelling technique was chosen for this study as it has consistently performed well compared with alternative modelling methods and is also an appropriate model choice when the sample size is small and locality records are relatively few. Predicted habitat suitability showed that some locations chosen for translocation and restoration of E. latifrons specimens are not suitable. This revealed that modelling suitable habitat can guide relocation and regeneration of E. latifrons and perhaps other threatened cycads with restricted distributions and few locality records. The species distribution model constructed for E. latifrons is the first reported habitat model for a Critically Endangered cycad in South Africa. The results may be incorporated into conservation planning and structured decision-making about translocations and restoration programmes involving vulnerable cycads, which are among the most threatened organisms globally.
Biodiversity and Conservation – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 17, 2018
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