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Spatial conservation prioritization of biodiversity spanning the evolutionary continuum


Accounting for evolutionary relationships between and within species is important for biodiversity conservation planning, but is rarely considered in practice. Here we introduce a novel framework to identify priority conservation areas accounting for phylogenetic and intraspecific diversity, integrating concepts from phylogeny, phylogeography, spatial statistics and spatial conservation prioritization. The framework allows planners to incorporate and combine different levels of evolutionary diversity and can be applied to any taxonomic group and to any region in the world. We illustrate our approach using amphibian and reptile species occurring in a biodiversity hotspot region, the Iberian Peninsula. We found that explicitly incorporating phylogenetic and intraspecific diversity in systematic conservation planning provides advantages in terms of maximizing overall biodiversity representation while enhancing its persistence and evolutionary potential. Our results emphasize the need to account for the evolutionary continuum in order to efficiently implement biodiversity conservation planning decisions.

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Figure 1: Methodological workflow and illustration of features’ weights.
Figure 2: Spatial patterns of diversity for the amphibian and reptile species of the Iberian Peninsula.
Figure 3: Comparison of Zonation solutions (areas included in the highest 17% rank) between the Sp scenario and the alternatives (Br, SpLin and BrLin) for both amphibians and reptiles.
Figure 4: Relative and target efficiencies.


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This work was developed under the project PTDC/BIABIC/118624/2010, funded by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) through the North of Portugal Regional Operational Programme 2007/2013 (ON.2O Novo Norte), the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF); and through project PTDC/BIA-BIC/3545/2014, supported by Norte Portugal Regional Operational Programme (NORTE 2020), under the PORTUGAL 2020 Partnership Agreement, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). P.T. and S.B.C. were funded by FCT postdoctoral grants (SFRH/BPD/93473/2013 and SFRH/BPD/74423/2010, respectively) and G.V.-A. was supported by an IF contract (IF/01425/2014), attributed by FCT. S.C. was funded by project CGL2015-70390-P (MINECO/FEDER). H.P.P. was supported by the Australian Research Council. We thank all the colleagues who kindly provided samples and molecular data: A. Perera, A. Miraldo, A. Kaliontzopoulou, B. Carvalho, C. Rato, D. Guicking, F. F. Martínez, H. Gonçalves, I. Martínez-Solano, J. Harris, M. Fonseca, M. Carretero, N. Sillero, R. Godinho, R. Cunha, U. Fritz and X. Santos.

Author information




S.B.C., S.C., C.M. and H.P.P. designed the study. S.B.C., P.T. and A.P.P. compiled the data. M.B., G.V.-A. and S.C. collected field samples. M.B. carried out the laboratory work. G.V.A. and S.C. performed the molecular analysis. P.T. and S.B.C. performed the lineage’s occurrence analysis. S.B.C. and A.P.P. performed the spatial prioritization analysis. S.B.C. led the writing, to which all authors contributed.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Silvia B. Carvalho.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Details on study area; Supplementary Methods; Supplementary References; Supplementary Tables 1–6; Supplementary phylogenetic trees. (PDF 2509 kb)

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Carvalho, S., Velo-Antón, G., Tarroso, P. et al. Spatial conservation prioritization of biodiversity spanning the evolutionary continuum. Nat Ecol Evol 1, 0151 (2017).

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