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Selecting key areas for conservation at the regional level: the case of the globally ‘Near Threatened’ Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus in south-east Portugal



Since the resources available for nature conservation tend to be very limited, localised conservation actions are often the only feasible management option. Therefore, we must select key areas where these actions will be most effective. Here we used Weighted Linear Combination (WLC) to integrate various variables in a GIS environment and identify key areas for implementing conservation actions benefiting Cinereous Vultures Aegypius monachusin south-east Portugal. Through a bibliographic search, we selected four main variables and sub-variables related to land use, food availability, disturbance and topography. These were weighted for their relative importance using the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) and combined using WLC to obtain suitability maps for the best nesting and foraging sites for Cinereous Vultures. Overall, the study areas show moderate to high suitability as foraging areas for the species, but only a few small patches seem suitable as nesting sites. The use of GIS-based decision support systems, such as WLC, together with an objective method for weighting variables, like the AHP, allows for the integration of large amounts of cartographic information into suitability maps that can easily be used to select key areas for conservation at the regional level.


Como os recursos disponiveis para conservação da natureza tendem a ser bastante limitados, acções de conservação localizadas são geralmente a única opção viável. Assim, é necessária a escolha das melhores zonas onde essas acções possam ter eficácia máxima. Neste trabalho usámos Combinação Linear Ponderada (CLP) de forma a integrar várias váriáveis em ambiente SIG para identificar áreas no SE Portugal onde implementar acções de conservação dirigidas ao abutre-preto Aegypius monachus. Com base na bibliografia foram escolhidas quatro variáveis principais e sub-variáveis relacionadas com uso do solo, disponibilidade alimentar, perturbação e topografia. A sua importância relativa foi ponderada usando o Processo Hierárquico Analitico (AHP) e as variáveis foram combinadas através do CLP de forma a obter mapas de adequabilidade para a nidificação e alimentação do abutre-preto. As áreas de estudo mostraram uma adequabilidade moderada a alta no que respeita a zonas de alimentação, mas só algumas pequenas zonas parecem favoráveis à nidificação. O uso de sistemas de suporte à decisão, como o CLP, aliado a um método objectivo para ponderação das variáveis, como o AHP, permitem integrar grandes quantidades de informação cartográfica na forma de mapas de adequabilidade que podem ser facilmente usados para a selecção das melhores zonas para a conservação à escala regional.

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