Letter | Published:

Large conservation gains possible for global biodiversity facets

Nature volume 546, pages 141144 (01 June 2017) | Download Citation

Abstract

Different facets of biodiversity other than species numbers are increasingly appreciated as critical for maintaining the function of ecosystems and their services to humans1,2. While new international policy and assessment processes such as the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) recognize the importance of an increasingly global, quantitative and comprehensive approach to biodiversity protection, most insights are still focused on a single facet of biodiversity—species3. Here we broaden the focus and provide an evaluation of how much of the world’s species, functional and phylogenetic diversity of birds and mammals is currently protected and the scope for improvement. We show that the large existing gaps in the coverage for each facet of diversity could be remedied by a slight expansion of protected areas: an additional 5% of the land has the potential to more than triple the protected range of species or phylogenetic or functional units. Further, the same areas are often priorities for multiple diversity facets and for both taxa. However, we find that the choice of conservation strategy has a fundamental effect on outcomes. It is more difficult (that is, requires more land) to maximize basic representation of the global biodiversity pool than to maximize local diversity. Overall, species and phylogenetic priorities are more similar to each other than they are to functional priorities, and priorities for the different bird biodiversity facets are more similar than those of mammals. Our work shows that large gains in biodiversity protection are possible, while also highlighting the need to explicitly link desired conservation objectives and biodiversity metrics. We provide a framework and quantitative tools to advance these goals for multi-faceted biodiversity conservation.

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Acknowledgements

Thanks to D. Rosauer for comments and F. Mazel for help with analyses. L.J.P. acknowledges funding from the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under REA grant agreement no. 659422. W.T. acknowledges support from the European Research Council (ERC-2011-StG-281422-TEEMBIO). W.J. acknowledges support from NSF DEB 1441737, DBI 1262600, DEB 1558568, NASA NNX11AP72G, and the Yale Center for Biodiversity and Global Change.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Université Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, LECA, Laboratoire d’Écologie Alpine, F-38000 Grenoble, France

    • Laura J. Pollock
    •  & Wilfried Thuiller
  2. Yale University, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 165 Prospect Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06511, USA

    • Walter Jetz
  3. Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Silwood Park, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7PY, UK

    • Walter Jetz

Authors

  1. Search for Laura J. Pollock in:

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Contributions

L.J.P. and W.J. planned the project, L.J.P. ran analyses and wrote the first draft. All authors contributed to interpreting the results, and the writing and editing of the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Laura J. Pollock.

Reviewer Information Nature thanks P. Kareiva, P. Visconti and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher's note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature22368

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