Biodiversity Conservation and Phylogenetic Systematics

Volume 14 of the series Topics in Biodiversity and Conservation pp 305-318

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

Global Spatial Analyses of Phylogenetic Conservation Priorities for Aquatic Mammals

  • Laura J. May-ColladoAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Vermont Email author 
  • , Carlos Zambrana-TorrelioAffiliated withEcoHealth Alliance
  • , Ingi AgnarssonAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Vermont


Several studies have shown how current climate change and human threats to aquatic environments are significantly impacting aquatic mammals worldwide. In response to these threats it is important to prioritize conservation efforts. A recent approach to evaluate conservation priorities is to combine information on species status from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List with information on the evolutionary history of the species from phylogenetic trees. This new approach provides a measure of biodiversity that complements estimates of species richness, adding evolutionary distinctiveness of species. Using near-complete species level phylogenies for the mammal groups with aquatic species (Carnivora, Cetacea, Sirenia) we calculated two measures (EDGE and HEDGE) of conservation priorities for 127 aquatic mammals under two scenarios of projected extinctions: a “pessimistic” approach, which represents a ‘worst case scenario’ for each species; and the “IUCN 50” a projected extinction risk over the next 50 years (Table 1 Then we analyzed the information to identify conservation priority areas (CPA) for aquatic mammals. We identified 22 CPAs distributed primarily along coastal waters in both northern and southern hemispheres. While thousands of marine protected areas (MPA) have been established in recent years, only 11.5 % of CPAs overlap with existing MPAs. Nevertheless, all phylogenetic CPAs identified in this study have also been proposed to be important by other independent studies using different prioritization criteria, highlighting the importance of focusing conservation efforts in these areas.


IUCN Cetaceans Pinnipeds Manatees EDGE HEDGE