Applications in plant sciences

Biodiversity comparison among phylogenetic diversity metrics and between three North American prairies.

PMID 26191461


Protection of Earth's ecosystems requires identification of geographical areas of greatest biodiversity. Assessment of biodiversity begins with knowledge of the evolutionary histories of species in a geographic area. Multiple phylogenetic diversity (PD) metrics have been developed to describe biodiversity beyond species counts, but sufficient empirical studies, particularly at fine phylogenetic scales, have not been conducted to provide conservation planners with evidence for incorporating PD metrics into selection of priority regions. We review notable studies that are contributing to a growing database of empirical results, we report on the effect of using high-throughput sequencing to estimate the phylogenies used to calculate PD metrics, and we discuss difficulties in selecting appropriate diversity indices. We focused on two of the most speciose angiosperm families in prairies-Asteraceae and Fabaceae-and compared 12 PD metrics and four traditional measures of biodiversity between three North American prairie sites. The varying results from the literature and from the current data reveal the wide range of applications of PD metrics and the necessity for many more empirical studies. The accumulation of results from further investigations will eventually lead to a scientific understanding upon which conservation planners can make informed decisions about where to apply limited preservation funds.