Polylepis woodland remnants as biodiversity islands in the Bolivian high Andes

Mountain forests deserve special attention from ecologists and conservation biologists given the ecosystem services they provide to society, and their threat under global change. In the subalpine region of the Andes, Polylepis woodlands occur as arboreal islands in a matrix of grassland and scrub. Due to overgrazing and burning, however, these woodland patches are believed to cover only 11% of their potential area in Bolivia, core area for Polylepis.We reviewed the knowledge on the species diversity for the Bolivian Polylepis woodland remnants, assessed the conservation status of the occurring species, determined their trophic niche, and related species richness with climatic variables and elevation. Based in 31 publications, we found 780 identified species occurring in Polylepis woodlands: 425 plants, 266 birds, 46 mammals, 35 butterflies and 8 reptiles. Ten of the 13 Bolivian Polylepis species, as well as 7 other plant species, 14 bird species and 4 mammal species were categorized as threatened or near threatened according to IUCN criteria. In general, plant species richness increased with increased precipitation and length of the growth season, while it decreased with increasing elevation. There was a positive relationship between bird species richness, precipitation and length of the growth season. The highest bird endemism in Polylepis woodland remnants occurred at intermediate elevations, temperatures and precipitation. Mammal species richness decreased with increasing maximum temperature. Finally, we discuss the most important knowledge gaps regarding biodiversity in Bolivian Polylepis woodland remnants.