Phylogenetic endemism, climate refugia, and conserving the tree of life in a changing world
The measurement of geographic range sizes and the delineation of areas with particularly range-restricted species have been hampered by available spatial biodiversity data. Resulting uncertainty and coarse spatial grain of ‘centers of endemism’ have often limited conservation planning or constrained the test of hypotheses about the role of habitat specialization, isolation or climate stability in the formation and maintenance of centers of endemism. Integrated distribution information through resources such as Map of Life together with remote sensing based modeling approaches now allow a more detailed delineation. Additionally, complete phylogenies for whole large clades enable the assessment of historical hypotheses and an evaluation of evolutionary in addition to species rarity in geographic space. In particular, ‘phylogenetic endemism’ allows characterizing the spatial concentrations of evolutionarily isolated and geographically restricted biodiversity and may offer an effective way to help conserve the tree of life.
I will provide an overview of the current biases and data limitations in species geographic distribution knowledge and specifically address the issue of its coarse spatial grain and the resulting implications for ecological and conservation analyses. I will then highlight the refined species distribution assessments made possible by integration of different data sources and the use of remote sensing layers in distribution modeling. The resulting, much more detailed delineation of centers of endemism provides a number of new opportunities for testing their biogeographic, ecological and climatic underpinnings. I will illustrate global centers of the concentration of narrow-ranged birds and mammal species and provide a comparison of species and phylogenetic endemism. I will explore the potential historical and contemporary environmental associations of these centers and assess resulting spatial priorities for the conservation of species and evolutionary information in a changing world.