Systematic Conservation Planning for Groundwater Ecosystems Using Phylogenetic Diversity
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Abstract Aquifer ecosystems provide a range of important services including clean drinking water. These ecosystems, which are largely inaccessible to humans, comprise a distinct invertebrate fauna (stygofauna), which is characterized by narrow distributions, high levels of endemism and cryptic species. Although being under enormous anthropogenic pressure, aquifers have rarely been included in conservation planning because of the general lack of knowledge of species diversity and distribution. Here we use molecular sequence data and phylogenetic diversity as surrogates for stygofauna diversity in aquifers of New South Wales, Australia. We demonstrate how to incorporate these data as conservation features in the systematic conservation planning software Marxan. We designated each branch of the phylogenetic tree as a conservation feature, with the branch length as a surrogate for the number of distinct characters represented by each branch. Two molecular markers (nuclear 18S ribosomal DNA and mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I) were used to evaluate how marker variability and the resulting tree topology affected the site-selection process. We found that the sites containing the deepest phylogenetic branches were deemed the most irreplaceable by Marxan. By integrating phylogenetic data, we provide a method for including taxonomically undescribed groundwater fauna in systematic conservation planning.
© 2014 Asmyhr et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Conservation and Biodiversity