Ecosystem Services Modeling as a Tool for Defining Priority Areas for Conservation
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Conservationists often have difficulty obtaining financial and social support for protected areas that do not demonstrate their benefits for society. Therefore, ecosystem services have gained importance in conservation science in the last decade, as these services provide further justification for appropriate management and conservation of natural systems. We used InVEST software and a set of GIS procedures to quantify, spatialize and evaluated the overlap between ecosystem services-carbon stock and sediment retention-and a biodiversity proxy-habitat quality. In addition, we proposed a method that serves as an initial approach of a priority areas selection process. The method considers the synergism between ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation. Our study region is the Iron Quadrangle, an important Brazilian mining province and a conservation priority area located in the interface of two biodiversity hotspots, the Cerrado and Atlantic Forest biomes. The resultant priority area for the maintenance of the highest values of ecosystem services and habitat quality was about 13% of the study area. Among those priority areas, 30% are already within established strictly protected areas, and 12% are in sustainable use protected areas. Following the transparent and highly replicable method we proposed in this study, conservation planners can better determine which areas fulfill multiple goals and can locate the trade-offs in the landscape. We also gave a step towards the improvement of the habitat quality model with a topography parameter. In areas of very rugged topography, we have to consider geomorfometric barriers for anthropogenic impacts and for species movement and we must think beyond the linear distances. Moreover, we used a model that considers the tree mortality caused by edge effects in the estimation of carbon stock. We found low spatial congruence among the modeled services, mostly because of the pattern of sediment retention distribution.