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Selecting priority areas for systematic conservation of Chinese Rhododendron: hotspot versus complementarity approaches

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Abstract

The use of quantitative measures to select priority areas for conservation has been in practice since the early 1980s. However, the relative efficiency of different methods for identifying priority areas is still the subject of debate. Here, using the distribution data of 556 Rhododendron species in China with high spatial resolution, we evaluated the performance of the two commonly used methods, i.e. hotspot and complementarity and selected the efficient method to select priority areas for the conservation of Rhododendron in China. By overlaying the priority areas map with the locations of protected areas, we also identified the regions not covered by current protected areas (i.e. conservation gaps). We found that the complementarity method selected less number of grid cells to capture an equivalent number of species and hence had higher efficiency and representativeness than the commonly used hotspot method. Moreover, the complementarity method was better at capturing the range-restricted species than the hotspot method. Based on the complementarity method, we identified 61 grid cells of 50 × 50 km as priority areas for Rhododendron conservation in China. Among these priority areas, only about 50% grid cells were located in the hotspot areas (e.g. Hengduan Mountains), and 14% grid cells were outside the current protected area network. Our findings suggest that, despite its popularity and ease of implementation, the sites selected by hotspot algorithm may not necessarily be the best sites to allocate conservation efforts. Since the identification of priority areas in China has largely been based on the hotspot method, the current study has revived the need to reassess the priority areas for other taxonomic groups too. More importantly, our findings have emphasized the need to expand the conservation priorities from Hengduan Mountains to south and southeast China as well.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Carsten Rahbek from University of Copenhagen and the reviewers for providing useful insights. This work was supported by the National Key Research Development Program of China (#2017YFA0605101), National Natural Science Foundation of China (#31650110471, #31522012, #31470564, #31621091) and Chinese Academy of Sciences-Peking University Pioneer Collaboration Team. NS would also like to thank the support from IDEA WILD.

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Correspondence to Zhiheng Wang.

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Communicated by Daniel Sanchez Mata.

This article belongs to the Topical Collection: Biodiversity protection and reserves.

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Shrestha, N., Wang, Z. Selecting priority areas for systematic conservation of Chinese Rhododendron: hotspot versus complementarity approaches. Biodivers Conserv 27, 3759–3775 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-018-1625-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-018-1625-8

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