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Conservation Letter

Conservation of neotropical herpetofauna: research trends and challenges [ pages 359-375 ]

J. Nicolás Urbina-Cardona1,2
    1Museo de Zoología "Alfonso L. Herrera", Departamento de Biología Evolutiva, Facultad de Ciencias, UNAM. México DF 04510. 2Conservation International - Colombia, Carrera 13 # 71-41 (Bogotá-Colombia).

The Neotropics harbor between 30-50% of the world’s herpetofauna. However, little is known about the ecology and natural history of many species, making conservation strategies difficult to plan. After reviewing published papers on world herpetofauna conservation, it was shown that conservation biology has a low impact factor in scientific journals in comparison with other related disciplines such as evolutionary biology and ecology. Moreover, herpetology has one of the lowest impact factors within the biological sciences journals. The number of publications on amphibian and reptile conservation has increased in recent years; however, only 31% of the papers on herpetofaunal conservation have been published in high impact journals. There are many challenges to overcome in the conservation of the Neotropical herpetofauna. Uniform and stable taxonomic nomenclature is critical to avoid overestimation of species richness and diversity for conservation assessments, and in the context of legal proceedings. Herpetofaunal research needs to be conducted within the appropriate socio-political and economic framework, in order to effectively implement conservation area networks. It is important to reevaluate the role of protected area systems in ensuring the persistence of communities and populations, and to identify strategies and future conservation priorities, based on climate-change scenarios. Population and community studies at different spatial and temporal scales are necessary to understand herpetofauna responses to anthropogenic disturbances, habitat loss and fragmentation, edge and matrix effects, and their synergy with micro-climatic gradients, emergent diseases and shifting patterns of genetic diversity. One of the biggest challenges for herpetofaunal conservation science in the neotropics is to control habitat loss and increase landscape connectivity along altitudinal gradients, while at the same time control species invasion that alter native species’ interactions and spread emergent diseases (e.g. Chytridiomycosis) facilitated by climate change.

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   Tropical Conservation Science is an open-access e-journal that publishes research relating to conservation of tropical forests and other tropical ecosystems.

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