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Assessing the effectiveness of protected areas for conserving range-restricted rainforest butterflies in Sabah, Borneo

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DateAccepted/In press - 22 Jul 2019
Original languageEnglish


Rainforests on Borneo support exceptional concentrations of endemic insect biodiversity, but many of these forest-dependent species are threatened by land-use change. Totally protected areas (TPAs) of forest are key for conserving biodiversity, and we examined the effectiveness of the current TPA network for conserving range-restricted butterflies in Sabah (Malaysian Borneo). We found that mean diurnal temperature range and precipitation of the wettest quarter of the year were the most important predictors of butterfly distributions (N = 77 range-restricted species), and that species richness increased with elevation and aboveground forest carbon. On average across all species, TPAs were effective at conserving ~43% of species’ ranges, but encompassed only ~40% of areas with high species richness (i.e. containing at least 50% of our study species). The TPA network also included only 33-40% of areas identified as high priority for conserving range-restricted species, as determined by a systematic conservation prioritization analysis. Hence, the current TPA network is reasonably effective at conserving range-restricted butterflies, although considerable areas of high species richness (6565 km2) and high conservation priority (11,152-12,531 km2) are not currently protected. Sabah’s remaining forests, and the range-restricted species they support, are under continued threat from agricultural expansion and urban development, and our study highlights important areas of rainforest that require enhanced protection.

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