Shielded from serious human disturbances, protected areas play a key role in preventing irreversible biodiversity loss in a world of increased rates of environmental disruption. Often based on taxonomic diversity, the locations of protected areas seldom consider the unique evolutionary status and functional traits of species although phylogenetic diversity may be crucial for sustaining an ecosystem.
To assess the current conservation efficacy of protected areas in China, the authors of this paper used IUCN range maps supplemented by GBIF-mediated occurrences of terrestrial vertebrates combined with previously published phylogenies of clades to estimate and identify hotspots of phylogenetic diversity and evolutionary distinctiveness. Mapping these against existing protected areas, the authors were able to reveal gaps in coverage.
Based on their analysis, the paper concludes that the current network of protected areas targeting species richness appears to protect phylogenetic diversity fairly well. However, highlighting the lack of protection of severely threatened birds in the coastal areas of eastern China, the authors suggest room for improvement in the distribution of protected areas.