Biodiversity Conservation and Phylogenetic Systematics

Volume 14 of the series Topics in Biodiversity and Conservation pp 265-285

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Representing Hotspots of Evolutionary History in Systematic Conservation Planning for European Mammals

  • Anni ArponenAffiliated withDepartment of Biosciences, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki Email author 
  • , Laure ZupanAffiliated withLaboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine, UMR-CNRS 5553, Université J. Fourier


Systematic conservation planning deals with cost-effective allocation of conservation funds. There are diverse ways in which evolutionary history could be included in prioritization, but here we considered it at the local scale, valuing higher the locations where the local community has high phylogenetic diversity, while still aiming at maximizing overall species representation. We conducted the prioritization with the Zonation software for spatial conservation planning.

We prioritized areas for conservation in Europe using distribution data and phylogenies for 275 mammal species. We prioritized areas in Europe for conserving hotspots of evolutionary history. For comparison we made analyses with species occurrences alone. Analyses were done for the whole region and for each country separately. We explored the impacts of tree uncertainty, and analyzed how well existing protected areas performed with respect to Zonation priorities.

Our findings indicate that some hotspots of evolutionary history are missed by species-based prioritization, unless specifically accounted for. Uncertainty in spatial priorities caused by variation in phylogenetic tree structure was a minor concern for prioritization. Protected areas did not perform well when assessed against the Zonation priorities for species or for phylogenetic diversity, although highest national scale priorities had almost twice as much area protected as the overall average.

We emphasize that the chosen goals and analysis setups have strong impacts on spatial priorities and therefore care must be taken in defining them appropriately. But regardless of setups, the gap between the current conservation efforts and spatial prioritization outcomes is typically greater than the difference between including and excluding phylogenetic diversity. Therefore the focus should be on increasing the role of spatial analyses in practical conservation, but whenever feasible, also including evolutionary history in the analyses, because evolutionary history is not always well represented by targeting species for conservation.


Phylogenetic diversity Quadratic entropy Spatial prioritization Zonation