Preserving evolutionary heritage: proposal for new conservation strategies

A new study led by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre highlights the need to include “phylogenetic diversity” (namely the million years of evolution that a species or a species set represents) when evaluating which species and geographic areas to prioritise, and applies it to mammals. The study has been published in Nature Communications.

The study recommends the inclusion of the “phylogenetic diversity” criterion as one of the established biodiversity criteria in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. The study recommends the inclusion of the “phylogenetic diversity” criterion as one of the established biodiversity criteria in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. ©geno sajko, adobe stock 2021

The species and areas identified in this study are those for which conservation actions would bring the most benefits in projected phylogenetic diversity in a 50-year time horizon, compared to a baseline scenario in which species trajectories to extinction do not change. 

 

The study, carried out in collaboration with researchers form the Natural History Museum of Paris and the Australian Museum, identifies two categories of species and areas that deserve particular conservation efforts in order to preserve the evolutionary history of the world’s mammals:

 

  1. Priority species and areas (such as the Mountain Pygmy possum and South-East Africa), and
  2. Species and areas that deserve preventive conservation actions (such as the aardvark and Amazonia).

 

Both categories of species and areas currently lack protection. While the priority species identified in this work mostly correspond to species previously identified by the Edge of Existence Programme, the priority areas do not correspond to previously identified biodiversity hotspots.

 

The study recommends the inclusion of the “phylogenetic diversity” criterion as one of the established biodiversity criteria in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, i.e. the new international policy framework to protect biodiversity currently under discussion and due to be adopted at the UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP15) in October 2021.

 

Further information

 

Article published in Nature: Revisiting species and areas of interest for conserving global mammalian phylogenetic diversity