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International Journal of Ecology
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 612194, 12 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2015/612194
Research Article

Combining Niche Modelling, Land-Use Change, and Genetic Information to Assess the Conservation Status of Pouteria splendens Populations in Central Chile

1Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Macquarie University, Building E8B, Room 206, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia
2Ecomabi Foundation, Ahumada 312, Oficina 425, 8320185 Santiago, Chile
3Landscape Ecology & Sustainability Laboratory, Arizona State University, LSE Building, Room 704, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA
4Department of Crop Sciences, Faculty of Agronomy and Forestry Engineering, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Avenida Vicuña Mackenna 4860, San Joaquin, 7820436 Santiago, Chile

Received 9 June 2015; Revised 11 October 2015; Accepted 19 October 2015

Academic Editor: Ram Chander Sihag

Copyright © 2015 Narkis S. Morales et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

To assess the conservation status of a species with little ecological information is usually a challenging process. Pouteria splendens is an endemic shrub of the coastal range of Central Chile currently classified as lower risk (LR) by IUCN (version 2.3). Knowledge about this species is extremely limited. Currently P. splendens is only found in two small and isolated populations, which are thought to be remaining populations of an originally large metapopulation. However, there is no evidence to support this hypothesis, limiting our ability to gauge the real current conservation status of this species. In this study we combine niche modelling, land-use information, and genetic techniques to test the metapopulation hypothesis and reassess the conservation status of P. splendens using the IUCN criteria. We also evaluated the potential effects of climate change in the species distribution. Our results support the hypothesis of a large metapopulation that was recently fragmented. Future climate could increase the range of P. splendens; however the high level of fragmentation would preclude colonization processes. We recommend reclassifying P. splendens as Endangered (EN) and developing strategies to protect the remaining populations. Similar approaches like the presented here could be used to reclassify other species with limited ecological knowledge.