Balancing plant conservation and agricultural production in the Ecuadorian Dry Inter-Andean Valleys

  • Articles in SCI Journals
  • Mar, 2019

Quintana, C., Girardello, M. & Balslev, H. (2019) Balancing plant conservation and agricultural production in the Ecuadorian Dry Inter-Andean Valleys.

PeerJ, 7, e6207. DOI:10.7717/peerj.6207 (IF2019 2,379; Q1 Multidisciplinary Sciences)


Conserving both biodiversity and ecosystem services is a major goal of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Hotspots for biodiversity in the Andes significantly overlap with areas with dense human populations that sustain their economy through agricultural production. Therefore, developing management forms that reconcile food provisioning services—such as agriculture—with biodiversity conservation must be addressed to avoid social conflicts and to improve conservation in areas where biodiversity co-occurs with other ecosystem services. Here, we present a high-resolution conservation plan for vascular plants and agriculture in the Ecuadorian Dry Inter-Andean Valleys (DIAV) hotspot. Trade-offs in conserving important areas for both biodiversity and agriculture were explored.


We used a dataset containing 5,685 presence records for 95 plant species occurring in DIAVs, of which 14 species were endemic. We developed habitat suitability maps for the 95 species using Maxent. Prioritization analyses were carried out using a conservation planning framework. We developed three conservation scenarios that selected important areas for: biodiversity only, agriculture only, and for both biodiversity and agriculture combined.


Our conservation planning analyses, capture 33.5% of biodiversity and 11% of agriculture under a scenario solely focused on the conservation of biodiversity. On the other hand, the top 17% fraction of the agriculture onlyscenario captures 10% of biodiversity and 28% of agriculture. When biodiversity and agriculture were considered in combination, their representation varied according to the importance given to agriculture. The most balanced solution that gives a nearly equal representation of both biodiversity and agriculture, was obtained when agriculture was given a slightly higher importance over biodiversity during the selection process.


This is the first evaluation of trade-offs between important areas for biodiversity and agriculture in Ecuadorian DIAV. Our results showed that areas with high agricultural productivity and high biodiversity partly overlapped. Our study suggests that a land-sharing strategy would be appropriate for conserving plant diversity and agriculture in the DIAV. Overall, our study reinforces the idea that friendly practices in agriculture can contribute to biodiversity conservation.


  • Balancing plant conservation and agricultural production in the Ecuadorian Dry Inter-Andean Valleys Marco Girardello Island Biodiversity, Biogeography & Conservation - IBBC