Comparing strategies to preserve evolutionary diversity

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Authors: Magnuson-Ford, K; Mooers, A; Paquette, SR; Steel, M
Year: 2010
Journal: Journal of Theoretical Biology 266: 107-116   Article Link (DOI)
Title: Comparing strategies to preserve evolutionary diversity
Abstract: The likely future extinction of various species will result in a decline of two quantities: species richness and phylogenetic diversity (PD, or 'evolutionary history'). Under a simple stochastic model of extinction, we can estimate the expected loss of these quantities under two conservation strategies: An 'egalitarian' approach, which reduces the extinction risk of all species, and a 'targeted' approach that concentrates conservation effort on the most endangered taxa. For two such strategies that are constrained to experience the same expected loss of species richness, we ask which strategy results in a greater expected loss of PD. Using mathematical analysis and simulation, we describe how the strategy (egalitarian versus targeted) that minimizes the expected loss of PD depends on the distribution of endangered status across the tips of the tree, and the interaction of this status with the branch lengths. For a particular data set consisting of a phylogenetic tree of 62 lemur species, with extinction risks estimated from the IUCN 'Red List', we show that both strategies are virtually equivalent, though randomizing these extinction risks across the tip taxa can cause either strategy to outperform the other. In the second part of the paper, we describe an algorithm to determine how extreme the loss of PD for a given decline in species richness can be. We illustrate the use of this algorithm on the lemur tree. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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