Coral Reefs

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 183–194 | Cite as

Making evolutionary history count: biodiversity planning for coral reef fishes and the conservation of evolutionary processes

  • Sophie von der HeydenEmail author


Anthropogenic activities are having devastating impacts on marine systems with numerous knock-on effects on trophic functioning, species interactions and an accelerated loss of biodiversity. Establishing conservation areas can not only protect biodiversity, but also confer resilience against changes to coral reefs and their inhabitants. Planning for protection and conservation in marine systems is complex, but usually focuses on maintaining levels of biodiversity and protecting special and unique landscape features while avoiding negative impacts to socio-economic benefits. Conversely, the integration of evolutionary processes that have shaped extant species assemblages is rarely taken into account. However, it is as important to protect processes as it is to protect patterns for maintaining the evolutionary trajectories of populations and species. This review focuses on different approaches for integrating genetic analyses, such as phylogenetic diversity, phylogeography and the delineation of management units, temporal and spatial monitoring of genetic diversity and quantification of adaptive variation for protecting evolutionary resilience, into marine spatial planning, specifically for coral reef fishes. Many of these concepts are not yet readily applied to coral reef fish studies, but this synthesis highlights their potential and the importance of including historical processes into systematic biodiversity planning for conserving not only extant, but also future, biodiversity and its evolutionary potential.


Adaptation Marine conservation genetics Climate change Population genetics Phylogenetic diversity Resilience 


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Evolutionary Genomics Group, Department of Botany and ZoologyUniversity of StellenboschMatielandSouth Africa

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