A multicriteria decision making approach to prioritise vascular plants for species-based conservation - Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew research repository
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Journal article

A multicriteria decision making approach to prioritise vascular plants for species-based conservation

18 April 2019

Abstract

There is a growing demand for species-based conservation to be strategic and deliver the greatest possible benefits for the money and resources invested. There is no global consensus on what constitutes an important species, but many biodiversity conservation initiatives prioritise the most rare, unique, vulnerable and/or useful as deserving attention. Currently, a wide range of prioritisation methods using varied criteria are available, but it can be difficult for conservation managers to choose the appropriate protocol best suited to their conservation purposes, and to combine the protocols that are available. The prioritisation process proposed here is integrative, adaptable, straightforward and transparent, and open to refinement by interested parties. Based on the availability of taxon level data, from an initial list of 337,137 accepted scientific names, we produced a conservation priority list for 25,025 vascular plant taxa (pteridophytes, gymnosperms and angiosperms) that accounts for their geographic rarity or endemism, taxonomic rarity or uniqueness, vulnerability to extinction and natural capital value by means of a multicriteria decision making approach. This list represents about 4.47% of pteridophyte, 36.12% of gymnosperm and 7.41% of angiosperm global diversity. The list consisted of a high percentage of taxa from South America (30%), Africa (23%) and North America (22%) followed by Asia-Temperate and Europe (each 15%) and Asia-Tropical (14%) with a low percentage from Australasia (6%), the Pacific (5%) and Antarctic (~2%). The occurrence of some taxa was reported from more than one geographic continent. We found 573 taxa (2%) had a high priority status, 21,707 taxa (87%) had a medium priority status and 2745 taxa (11%) had a low priority status for conservation. Results were validated against existing prioritisation schemes with a global or continental focus. The resulting list of plants with priority status along with their geographical distribution patterns should complement, not replace, existing conservation plans. Our method can be used as a rapid and preliminary assessment technique in prioritising vascular plants and has the scope to be used globally across various conservation activities.

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