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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2015

Identification of limiting climatic and geographical variables for the distribution of the tortoise Chelonoidis chilensis (Testudinidae): a baseline for conservation actions

Ruete, Alejandro; Leynaud, Gerardo C.


Background. Just as for most other tortoise species, the once common Chaco tortoise, Chelonoidis chilensis (Testudinidae), is under constant threat across it distribution in Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay. Despite initial qualitative description of the species distribution and further individual reports of new locations for the species, there is no description of the species distribution in probabilistic terms. With this work we aim to produce an updated predictive distribution map for C. chilensis to serve as a baseline management tool for directed strategic conservation planning.Methods. We fitted a spatially expanded logistic regression model within the Bayesian framework that accounts for uncertainty on presence-only and generated pseudo-absence data into the parameter estimates. We contrast the results with reported data for the national networks of protected areas to assess the inclusion of the species in area-based conservation strategies.Results. We obtained maps with predictions of the occurrence of the species and reported the model's uncertainty spatially. The model suggests that potential suitable habitats for the species are continuous across Argentina, West Paraguay and South Bolivia, considering the variables, the scale and the resolution used. The main limiting variables were temperature-related variables, and precipitation in the reproductive period.Discussion. Given the alarming low density and coverage of protected areas over the distribution area of C. chilensis, the map produced provides a baseline to identify areas where directed strategic conservation management actions would be more efficient for this and other associated species.


Argentina; AUC; Bayesian inference; Bolivia; Chaco tortoise; Chelonoidis chilensis; Paraguay; Presence-only data; Protected areas; Species distribution model

Published in

2015, volume: 3, article number: e1298

Authors' information

Ruete, Alejandro
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Leynaud, Gerardo C.
National University of Cordoba (UNC)

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