Terrestrial hotspots of evolutionary diversity point to new priorities for conservation

Study examines spatial overlaps between the global protected areas network and terrestrial hotspots of phylogenetic diversity

GBIF-mediated data resources used : occurrences of 6,483 genera
Polycardia lateralis
Polycardia lateralis observed in Analalava, Madagascar by David Rabehevitra. Photo via iNaturalist (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Identifying biodiversity hotspots is a common approach for prioritizing conservation. Most such designations, however, rely on species-level metrics and largely ignore phylogenetics. Although not necessarily more informative than species-level hotspots, phylogenetic diversity hotspots can represent evolutionary history and, potentially, adaptive capacity.

Integrating data on phylogeny and geographical distribution of amphibians, mammals, birds and angiosperms mediated by GBIF, this study identifies 29 clusters of phylogenetic diversity worldwide. While a large proportion of these overlap with species-level hotspots, the study finds novel hotspots of phylogenetic diversity in Central Chile, Honshu (Japan), New Caledonia, the Appalachian Mountains and parts of Texas.

Across all taxonomic groups, the most phylogenetically diverse concentrations were found in tropical regions, and overall, fewer than 10 per cent of phylogenetic diversity hotspots are designated as protected areas.

Original paper

Daru BH, le Roux PC, Gopalraj J, Park DS, Holt BG and Greve M (2019) Spatial overlaps between the global protected areas network and terrestrial hotspots of evolutionary diversity. Global Ecology and Biogeography. Wiley 28(6): 757–766. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.12888