Protected areas function as a lifeboat that can preserve the origins and maintenance of biodiversity. We assessed the representativeness of biodiversity in existing protected areas in Japan using a distribution dataset and phylogenetic tree for 5565 Japanese vascular plant species. We first examined the overlap of species distribution with the existing protected areas and identified the minimum set representing all plant species. Second, we evaluated the relative importance of environmental variables in explaining the spatial arrangement of protected areas using a random forest model. Finally, we clarified how potential drivers of plant diversity were sufficiently captured within the protected areas network. Although the protected areas captured the majority of species, nearly half of the minimum set areas were selected from outside the existing protected areas. The locations of existing protected areas are mainly associated with geographical and socio-economic factors rather than key biodiversity features (including evolutionary distinctiveness). Moreover, critical biodiversity drivers, which include current climate, paleoclimatic stability, and geographical isolation, were biasedly emulated within the existing protected areas. These findings demonstrate that current conservation planning fails to represent the ecological and evolutionary processes relevant to species sorting, dispersal limitation, and allopatric speciation. In particular, under-representativeness of historically stable habitats that function as evolutionary hotspots or refugia in response to climate changes may pose a threat to the long-term persistence of Japan’s endemic biota. This study provides a fundamental basis for developing prioritization measures to retain species assembly processes and in situ diversification along current climatic and geohistorical gradients.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics