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Mapping biodiversity hotspots and conservation priorities for the Euro-Mediterranean headwater ecosystems, as inferred from diversity and distribution of a water beetle lineage

Abstract

Euro-Mediterranean running water ecosystems represent a highly threatened habitat due to draining, construction, agriculture, eutrophication, pollution and climate changes. Thereby, the associated biodiversity is often more threatened compared to any other ecosystem and the identification of biodiversity hotspots and conservation priorities for running water fauna is therefore a primary target. Here we focused on invertebrates, as important indicators of ecosystem functions, modelling a lineage of water beetles and investigating the conservation status of Euro-Mediterranean headwater ecosystems. We selected the “Haenydra” lineage (Hydraenidae, genus Hydraena) as representative taxon (92 species overall, known to occur from Iberian Peninsula to W Iran), analysing a geographic database including literature, field-collecting and Museums data in order to map the distribution of biodiversity hotspots in Euro-Mediterranean headwater systems and locate the running water sites potentially important for invertebrates conservation. We hence assessed the conservation priorities assigning IUCN threat Categories—following IUCN guidelines—to all the species of the lineage, together with a herein introduced Conservation Score (CS) computed using a procedure tailored specifically for water beetles, also analysing historical series. We found that threatened categories (VU or higher), with high CSs, should be assigned to >70 % of the species, suggesting that, considering this lineage a representative model, the headwaters conservation status in Euro-Mediterranean areas is alarming. Cantabria, Pyrenees, Alps and Central Apennines were identified as biodiversity hotspots, whereas the combination of IUCN categories and CSs revealed that the areas with highest conservation concern are distributed in W-Alps, E-Alps, Apennines, Central Spain, Greece and N-Turkey. Our analyses suggested a dramatic worsening of running water ecosystems in several Mediterranean regions and in particular in Italy, Greece and Turkey. The comparison between the IUCN categories and the newly introduced CSs evidenced the importance of taking into account the ecological, hydro-geological and historical features when assessing conservation strategies for running water organisms.

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Acknowledgments

We are indebted to Lucilla Carnevali (Rome, Italy) for preliminary georeferentiation of many “Haenydra” localities and Stefano De Felici (Rome, Italy) for preliminary analyses and suggestions. We thank Ignacio Ribera (Barcelona, Spain) for suggestions and for providing information about Iberian “Haenydra”. We are grateful to all water beetle specialists that shared ecological and distributional data on “Haenydra” species, and in particular M. Jäch (NMW, Wien, Austria), J.A. Delgado (Murcia, Spain), L.F. Valladares (Leon, Spain), D. Bilton (Plymouth, UK), J.A. Díaz (Santiago de Compostela, Spain), J. Garrido (Vigo, Spain), C.E. Sainz Cantero (Granada, Spain) and F. Angelini (Francavilla Fontana, Brindisi, Italy). A special thank to our friend and colleague Giorgio Ferro (Treviso, Italy), recently passed away. We thank all the curators of all the museums visited by PA and MT and all the colleagues helping us in collecting beetles (Appendix S2) and especially Alessio De Biase (Rome, Italy). Thanks to two anonymous reviewers for suggestions and criticisms to early version of the manuscript. A visit of the first author to the NMW was supported by Synthesys (Application AT–TAF–53).

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Communicated by Dirk Sven Schmeller.

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Trizzino, M., Bisi, F., Maiorano, L. et al. Mapping biodiversity hotspots and conservation priorities for the Euro-Mediterranean headwater ecosystems, as inferred from diversity and distribution of a water beetle lineage. Biodivers Conserv 24, 149–170 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-014-0798-z

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Keywords

  • Hotspots distribution
  • Freshwater biodiversity
  • Conservation scores
  • Hydraenidae
  • IUCN threat categories