Predicting priority areas for conservation from historical climate modelling: stingless bees from Atlantic Forest hotspot as a case study

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Assuming that genetically diverse populations of bees are less likely to suffer the harmful effects of inbreeding and better able to avoid an extinction vortex related to the sex determination mechanism, the identification of putative areas in which diversity is concentrated should be focus of a discussion. Models of historical climate stability constitute an elegant manner of inferring such areas. The aim of the present study was to model the potential distribution of stingless bees in different periods of climate extremes of the Late Quaternary and the current day. A spatially-explicit model was designed to predict areas in which genetic diversity is putatively concentrated in an assemblage of nineteen species in the southern Atlantic Forest, Brazil. These climatically-stable areas (i.e., refuges) were mainly recorded in three portions of coastal forests in southeastern Brazil, regions that concentrate areas of high to extreme importance to the conservation of biological diversity. Such regions have differences regarding size and suitability scores and are distributed within the southern Atlantic Forest Central Corridor (SCC), as well as the northern (NSM) and southern Serra do Mar Corridor (SSM). Considering that refuges historically harbor high degrees of genetic diversity, these three regions are indicated as those of high importance to the conservation of stingless bees in the Atlantic Forest.

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This study is part of a wider project supported financially by Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP, process number 2011/21501-2) entitled Population Genetics of Bees and the Extinction Vortex of Hymenoptera. FAPESP also supported AFC with a PhD scholarship in Brazil and USA (processes numbers 2011/13391-2 and 2013/04317-9, respectively). The authors are grateful to Ana Carnaval, Mariano Soley-Guardia and Ivandy Castro Astor (CCNY) for their important comments on some of the ecological niche modelling techniques implemented in this work and to Jason Brown (CCNY) by the assistance with ArcScene 10.1.

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Correspondence to Antônio F. Carvalho.

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Carvalho, A.F., Del Lama, M.A. Predicting priority areas for conservation from historical climate modelling: stingless bees from Atlantic Forest hotspot as a case study. J Insect Conserv 19, 581–587 (2015) doi:10.1007/s10841-015-9780-7

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  • Biodiversity prediction
  • Climate stability
  • Conservation biogeography
  • MaxEnt
  • Paleomodelling
  • Refuges