Using Genetic Heat Index (GHI) for conservation prioritization

Study proposes improving improving botanical inventory in the tropics by integrating across spatial scales and using Rapid Botanic Survey for filling gaps

Tetraena simplex
Tetraena simplex recorded near Berbera, Somalia by Ahmed I. Awale. Photo via University of Hargeisa Herbarium.

Identifying areas of high biodiversity is important when prioritizing areas for conservation. Such hotspots can be defined by number of species or levels of endemism, but richness alone is considered to have limited value for highlighting conservation priorities.

In this study, researchers propose 'bioquality' as a novel indicator of conservation priority—defined as the biodiversity value of a plant community that is due to the concentration of globally rare taxa in said community. Calculated by categorizing species based on an assessment of their global range and then summarizing in a Genetic Heat Index (GHI), bioquality can complement other parameters like richness and rarity.

Compiling occurrence data for more than 40,000 plants species from GBIF and other sources, the authors derive GHI scores for East Africa at varying resolutions, identifying hotspots and gaps at both regional and local levels. To help fill gaps in sampling, the paper suggests Rapid Botanic Surveys, combining strengths of taxonomic and ecological recording, aiming to provide information about all plant species, community types and location of hotspots in a given area.

Original article

Hawthorne WD and Marshall CAM (2019) Rapid Botanic Survey, Bioquality and improving botanical inventory in the tropics by integrating across spatial scales. Gardens’ Bulletin Singapore. National Parks Board 71(suppl.2): 315–333. Available at: