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Turtle biogeography: Global regionalization and conservation priorities

November 12, 2019

Defaunation in the Anthropocene has created a need to focus limited conservation resources on geographically-explicit areas with high conservation significance. Priority conservation areas are often defined as those with high biodiversity – hotspots. While these conservation areas are critical to securing global biodiversity, prevailing approaches for their delineation are often qualitative. Here, we demonstrate the benefits of a clade-specific approach that improves conservation. We use the distinct, imperiled clade of turtles (tortoises and freshwater turtles) to delineate biogeographical regions and characterize their comparative levels of biodiversity and conservation values. We produce a quantitative, revisable map of 63 global turtle regions and identify several turtle regions, mostly in the Indomalayan turtle realm, that are high-priority conservation regions. While our high-priority turtle regions include those previously reported in the literature as turtle hotspots, we also describe a new priority conservation region in Southeast Asia (Yangtze-Huang He-Xi Yiang) which has both high species and endemism richness. Although not considered a high or intermediate conservation priority, our analyses delineated another previously unidentified turtle hotspot – the Kalahari Basin-Rift Valley. Additionally, we identify several turtle regions, largely in Central America, with intermediate conservation priority. Our results reveal that many turtle hotspots represent complex biogeographical areas with high inter-regional β-diversity, and several of these turtle-hotspots occur in transition zones with high biogeographical complexity. In these cases, inter-regional conservation efforts will be necessary to ensure turtle biodiversity conservation.

Publication Year 2020
Title Turtle biogeography: Global regionalization and conservation priorities
DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2019.108323
Authors Joshua R. Ennen, Mickey Agha, Sarah C. Sweat, Wilfredo A. Matamoros, Jeffrey E. Lovich, Anders G.J. Rhodin, John B. Iverson, Christopher W. Hoagstrom
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biological Conservation
Index ID 70207446
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Biological Science Center