Because of the urgency engendered by climate change and habitat loss, biodiversity must often be assessed indirectly, through the use of indicators. Recent studies have provided evidence of the usefulness of raptor species as indicators of high species richness. However, other studies have shown that presence of similar species of predators does not always indicate areas of high diversity. We used atlases of vertebrate data in Andalusia (southern Spain) as different indicator sets to select networks of priority areas based on complementary species rarity. We tested the value of each indicator group as a surrogate for the conservation of all other target groups. We found that a reserve based on raptors is the best option in terms of all other species representation. Raptors performed well in the representation of other birds, amphibians, reptiles and, to a lesser extent, mammals. Complementary sites based on raptor species also show higher plant community diversity than other sites. Based on 395 different European monitoring schemes and Zoological Record databases we suggest raptors may be an easy and cost-effective group to monitor biodiversity compared with other vertebrate groups. Finally, our results point out that farmland landscapes are under-represented in the existing protected network in Andalusia. According to the present study, we suggest raptors may guide farmland habitat acquisition in order to better preserve terrestrial vertebrate species within the existing protected network in Andalusia.
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Vol. 60 • No. 1