Aim In an era of global habitat loss and species extinction, conservation biology is increasingly becoming a science of triage. A key approach has been the designation of global biodiversity hotspots – areas of high species richness and endemism – prioritizing regions that are disproportionately valuable. However, traditional hotspot approaches leave absent information on species evolutionary histories. We argue that prioritizing the preservation of evolutionary diversity is one way to maximize genotypic and functional diversity, providing ecosystems with the greatest number of options for dealing with an uncertain future.
Methods We review methods for encapsulating phylogenetic diversity and distinctiveness and provide an illustration of how phylogenetic metrics can be extended to include data on geographical rarity and inform conservation prioritization at biogeographic scales.
Results Abundance-weighted metrics of evolutionary diversity can be used to simultaneously prioritize populations, species, habitats and biogeographical regions.
Main conclusion Policy makers need to know where scarce conservation funds should be focused to maximize gains and minimize the loss of biological diversity. By incorporating these evolutionary diversity metrics into prioritization schemes, managers can better quantify the valuation of different regions based on evolutionary information.