OOS 21-6 - Mapping phylogenetic diversity on to ecosystem function and service: Case studies and challenges

Wednesday, August 9, 2017: 9:50 AM
Portland Blrm 255, Oregon Convention Center
William D. Pearse, Department of Biology, Utah State University, Logan, UT, James Rosindell, Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Ascot, United Kingdom, Florent Mazel, Biology, Simon Fraser University and Nisha Owen, Zoological Society of London

There are many reasons conservation biologists might value phylogenetic diversity. One is practical: if closely-related species are more similar than we might expect by chance (phylogenetic signal), phylogenetic diversity can be used as an easy-to measure proxy for functional diversity. Yet the assumptions underlying this motivation have rarely been empirically tested. Another reason to preserve phylogenetic diversity is ideological: preserving sets of species with higher phylogenetic diversity ensures more millions of years of unique evolutionary history will survive. Despite a large body of theory, there are few guidelines available for practitioners who wish to include phylogenetic relationships as a component of conservation prioritization schemes. I describe ongoing work to test the assumption that phylogeny is a proxy for functional diversity, and present preliminary results from a working group organized with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) about how to best implement phylogenetically-based conservation prioritization.


Preliminary results across multiple taxa suggest that, in some cases, phylogenetic diversity is not a good proxy for functional diversity, despite species' traits exhibiting phylogenetic signal. I describe how this ties in with ongoing theoretical work, and suggest positive ways forward for conservation biologists wishing to effectively use phylogenetic diversity for conservation prioritization. I describe insights gained during discussions with ZSL about how best to incorporate phylogenetic diversity into conservation prioritization. Conservation NGOs have a number of data requirements that academic biologists can work to address, providing a tangible way that we can help make good use of insights gained from existing prioritization research.