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Comparison of conservation metrics in a case study of lemurs

Gudde, R. and Venditti, C. ORCID: (2016) Comparison of conservation metrics in a case study of lemurs. Conservation Biology, 30 (6). pp. 1347-1356. ISSN 1523-1739

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12746


Conservation planning is important to protect species from going extinct now that natural habitats are decreasing owing to human activity and climate change. However, there is considerable controversy in choosing appropriate metrics to weigh the value of species and geographic regions. For example, the added value of phylogenetic conservation-selection criteria remains disputed because high correlations between them and the nonphylogenetic criteria of species richness have been reported. We evaluated the commonly used conservation metrics species richness, endemism, phylogenetic diversity (PD), and phylogenetic endemism (PE) in a case study on lemurs of Madagascar. This enabled us to identify the conservation target of each metric and consider how they may be used in future conservation planning. We also devised a novel metric that uses a phylogeny scaled according to the rate of phenotypic evolution as a proxy for a species’ ability to adapt to change. High rates of evolution may indicate generalization or specialization. Both specialization and low rates of evolution may result in an inability to adapt to changing environments. We examined conservation priorities by using the inverse of the rate of body mass evolution to account for species with low rates of evolution. In line with previous work, we found high correlations among species richness and PD (r = 0.96), and endemism and PE (r = 0.82) in Malagasy lemurs. Phylogenetic endemism in combination with rates of evolution and their inverse prioritized grid cells containing highly endemic and specialized lemurs at risk of extinction, such as Avahi occidentalis and Lepilemur edwardsi, 2 endangered lemurs with high rates of phenotypic evolution and low-quality diets, and Hapalemur aureus, a critically endangered species with a low rate of body mass evolution and a diet consisting of very high doses of cyanide.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:68078

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