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Biology of Dryland Plants

Ezcurra, Exequiel [1].

Plant geography and conservation in the Baja California peninsula.

The Peninsula of Baja California is one of Mexico's prime wildernesses areas and a hotspot for plant richness and endemism. Its extraordinary biodiversity needs to be adequately protected, and biogeographic approaches are a fundamental tool for this purpose. Because of their role as desert keystone species, we have studied the biogeography of woody legumes, a highly endemic group. Endemism for woody legumes is highest in the center of the peninsula, where the driest deserts are found and where significant floristic changes took place during Pleistocene glacial events. While species richness and micro-endemism increase towards the south, floristic richness is significantly clumped around "hotspot" areas (after correcting for collection effort and land area). These hotspots for woody legumes occur in the Cape Region and along the Sierra de la Giganta in the southern Gulf Coast, where 77% of the total peninsular legume flora can be found. Mostly unprotected, they should be considered priority areas for future conservation efforts. Floristic turnover is significantly associated with topographic variation across the peninsula. We have also analyzed the distribution of the endemic vascular flora of the peninsula, and its presence or absence in protected areas. Of the total number of 742 endemic taxa (species and subspecies) in the region, 175 (24%) are not found in protected areas. The areas with the highest number of unprotected endemic species (identified through a gap analysis) are in the Mediterranean-type ecosystems of the northwest part of the peninsula and in the deciduous dry tropical communities of the peninsular Cape Region. It is necessary to create several protected areas along the peninsula for the successful conservation of rare and endemic taxa. These new areas should encompass a latitudinal gradient of biogeographic units, including Mediterranean communities, montane habitats in the Sierras, and dry tropical lowlands in the Cape.


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1 - San Diego Natural History Museum, Biodiversity Research Center of the Californias, 1788 El Prado, San Diego, California, 92101, USA

Keywords:
Baja California
hotspots
conservation
gap analysis.

Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Session: 49-14
Location: Salon K - Austin Grand Ballroom/Hilton
Date: Wednesday, August 17th, 2005
Time: 2:30 PM
Abstract ID:386


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