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Keywords:

  • Andes;
  • conservation prioritization;
  • ecological modeling;
  • Ecuador;
  • evolutionary process;
  • generalized dissimilarity modeling;
  • landscape genetics;
  • species distribution

Abstract

Human-induced land use changes are causing extensive habitat fragmentation. As a result, many species are not able to shift their ranges in response to climate change and will likely need to adapt in situ to changing climate conditions. Consequently, a prudent strategy to maintain the ability of populations to adapt is to focus conservation efforts on areas where levels of intraspecific variation are high. By doing so, the potential for an evolutionary response to environmental change is maximized. Here, we use modeling approaches in conjunction with environmental variables to model species distributions and patterns of genetic and morphological variation in seven Ecuadorian amphibian, bird, and mammal species. We then used reserve selection software to prioritize areas for conservation based on intraspecific variation or species-level diversity. Reserves selected using species richness and complementarity showed little overlap with those based on genetic and morphological variation. Priority areas for intraspecific variation were mainly located along the slopes of the Andes and were largely concordant among species, but were not well represented in existing reserves. Our results imply that in order to maximize representation of intraspecific variation in reserves, genetic and morphological variation should be included in conservation prioritization.