In developing conservation strategies, it is important to maximize effects of conservation within a specified land tract and to maximize conservation effects on surrounding area (ecological context). The authors proposed two criteria to select biotic entities for conservation foci: (1) the relative occurrence of fauna or flora in a tract is greater than that of an ecological context region; and (2) occurrence of the fauna or flora is relatively limited in the ecological context region. Using extensive spatial data on vegetation and wildlife habitat distribution, the authors identified strategic vegetation and fauna conservation foci for the 400 000 ha Fort Bliss military reservation in New Mexico and Texas relative to a 164 km radius ecological context region intersecting seven ecological zones and the predicted habitat distribution of 616 animal species. The authors set two specific criteria: (1) predicted area of a species' occurrence is <50% of the ecological context region; and (2) percentage of Fort Bliss intersecting the species' or vegetation community predicted areas in the ecological context region is >5% (Fort Bliss is 4.2% of the region). These criteria selected one vegetation class and 40 animal species. Further, these vegetation and animal foci were primarily located in two areas of Fort Bliss. Sensitivity analyses with other analytical radii corroborated the context radius used. Conservation of the two areas and associated taxa will maximize the contribution of Fort Bliss's conservation efforts in its ecological proximity. This relatively simple but information-rich process represents economical and defensible preliminary contextual analysis for detailed conservation planning.
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Analysis of ecological context for identifying vegetation and animal conservation planning foci: An example from the arid South-western USA