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Large ben­e­fit for global bio­di­ver­sity when small increase in size pro­tected areas

pub­lished 28 May 2017 | mod­i­fied 28 May 2017

global biodiversity phylogeneticsA new study finds that major gains in global bio­di­ver­sity can be achieved if an addi­tional 5% of land is set aside to pro­tect key species.

Sci­en­tists from Yale Uni­ver­sity and the Uni­ver­sity of Greno­ble said such an effort could triple the pro­tected range of those species and safe­guard their func­tional diver­sity. The find­ings under­score the need to look beyond species num­bers when devel­op­ing con­ser­va­tion strate­gies, the researchers said.

Bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion has mostly focused on species, but some species may offer much more crit­i­cal or unique func­tions or evo­lu­tion­ary her­itage than oth­ers — some­thing cur­rent con­ser­va­tion plan­ning does not read­ily address,” said Wal­ter Jetz, a Yale asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of ecol­ogy and evo­lu­tion­ary biol­ogy, and direc­tor of the Yale Cen­ter for Bio­di­ver­sity and Global Change.

We find that through the smart place­ment of con­ser­va­tion areas, strong gains in the con­ser­va­tion of the mul­ti­ple facets of bio­di­ver­sity facets are possible.

Wal­ter Jetz, co-​author, Yale asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of ecol­ogy and evo­lu­tion­ary biol­ogy, and direc­tor of the Yale Cen­ter for Bio­di­ver­sity and Global Change.

We show that a direct con­sid­er­a­tion of these other bio­di­ver­sity facets iden­ti­fies dif­fer­ent regions as high-​priority for con­ser­va­tion than a focus on species does, and more effec­tively safe­guards func­tions or evo­lu­tion­ary her­itage,” Jetz said.

In the study, pub­lished online on 24 May in the jour­nal Nature, the researchers noted that 26% of the world’s bird and mam­mal species are not reli­ably included in pro­tected areas. The out­look for fill­ing gaps in bird and mam­mal diver­sity could improve dra­mat­i­cally by smartly expand­ing the areas cur­rently man­aged for con­ser­va­tion, they said.

The researchers advo­cate a con­ser­va­tion strat­egy that empha­sizes global rep­re­sen­ta­tion, i.e., the plan­e­tary safe­guard­ing of species func­tion or evo­lu­tion­ary her­itage planet-​wide, rather than local rep­re­sen­ta­tion. They esti­mate that a care­fully pre­pared 5% increase in con­ser­va­tion area would allow a dra­mat­i­cally improved cap­ture of bird and mam­mal bio­di­ver­sity facets; an approach focused on species num­bers alone would be much less opti­mal, the researchers said.

Jetz and his col­leagues also said their approach enables a more com­pre­hen­sive guid­ance and cap­ture of progress as man­dated by the Con­ven­tion on Bio­log­i­cal Diver­sity (CBD) and under eval­u­a­tion by the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Science-​Policy Plat­form on Bio­di­ver­sity and Ecosys­tem Ser­vices (IPBES).

Given the cur­rent bio­di­ver­sity cri­sis, these results are encour­ag­ing because they show big con­ser­va­tion gains are pos­si­ble for aspects of bio­di­ver­sity that might oth­er­wise be over­looked in con­ser­va­tion plans,” Pol­lock said. “This bio­di­ver­sity is key to retain­ing the tree of life or func­tion­ing ecosys­tems, which nicely fits declared inter­na­tional pol­icy goals. This approach can be updated and refined as the world’s bio­di­ver­sity becomes bet­ter under­stood, cat­a­logued, and documented.”

The researchers have cre­ated inter­ac­tive web maps in the Map of Life project to accom­pany the study.

(Source: Yale­News press release, 25.05.2017)

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