Endemicity and evolutionary value: a study of Chilean endemic vascular plant genera

Authors

  • Rosa A. Scherson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Departmento de Silvicultura y Conservación de la Naturaleza, Facultad de Ciencias Forestales y Conservación de la Naturaleza, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile
    • Correspondence

      Rosa A. Scherson, Departmento de Silvicultura y Conservación de la Naturaleza, Facultad de Ciencias Forestales y Conservación de la Naturaleza, Universidad de Chile, Santa Rosa, 11315 Santiago, Chile. Tel: +56 2 2978 5721; Fax: +56 2 2541 7955; E-mail: rscherson@uchile.cl

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  • Abraham A. Albornoz,

    1. Center for Advanced Studies in Ecology and Biodiversity (CASEB), Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
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  • Andrés S. Moreira-Muñoz,

    1. Instituto de Geografía, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
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  • Rafael Urbina-Casanova

    1. Departmento de Silvicultura y Conservación de la Naturaleza, Facultad de Ciencias Forestales y Conservación de la Naturaleza, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile
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Abstract

This study uses phylogeny-based measures of evolutionary potential (phylogenetic diversity and community structure) to evaluate the evolutionary value of vascular plant genera endemic to Chile. Endemicity is regarded as a very important consideration for conservation purposes. Taxa that are endemic to a single country are valuable conservation targets, as their protection depends upon a single government policy. This is especially relevant in developing countries in which conservation is not always a high resource allocation priority. Phylogeny-based measures of evolutionary potential such as phylogenetic diversity (PD) have been regarded as meaningful measures of the “value” of taxa and ecosystems, as they are able to account for the attributes that could allow taxa to recover from environmental changes. Chile is an area of remarkable endemism, harboring a flora that shows the highest number of endemic genera in South America. We studied PD and community structure of this flora using a previously available supertree at the genus level, to which we added DNA sequences of 53 genera endemic to Chile. Using discrepancy values and a null model approach, we decoupled PD from taxon richness, in order to compare their geographic distribution over a one-degree grid. An interesting pattern was observed in which areas to the southwest appear to harbor more PD than expected by their generic richness than those areas to the north of the country. In addition, some southern areas showed more PD than expected by chance, as calculated with the null model approach. Geological history as documented by the study of ancient floras as well as glacial refuges in the coastal range of southern Chile during the quaternary seem to be consistent with the observed pattern, highlighting the importance of this area for conservation purposes.

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