Defining Protected Areas

One commonly used method for defining protected areas is identification of “biodiversity hotspots” with “exceptional concentrations of endemic species…experiencing exceptional loss of habitat” (Myers et al. 2000). Generally, methods of prioritizing areas for conservation based on measuring endemicity, phylogenetic diversity, or taxon richness represent variations of the hotspot approach—they all measure some proxy for species representation and identify areas for conservation based on these variables. Such methods stand in contrast to area selection approaches that focus on threatened or degraded habitats. The hotspot approach to choosing protected areas has been criticized as susceptible to taxonomic instability (Isaac et al. 2004). Some authors have suggested that hotspots should use higher level taxonomy to identify areas that warrant protection and sidestep issues related to unstable taxonomy (Balmford et al. 2000; Amori and Gippoliti 2003). Genera and species were found to be highly correlated and may select for the same priority areas, whereas family and order are not very informative (Balmford et al. 2000; Amori and Gippoliti 2003). This approach may be inappropriate for bats, as young, rapid radiations may result in higher species diversity than would be predicted based on generic diversity. For example, in the Paleotropics, site-wide diversity is primarily driven by only a few genera (e.g., Hipposideros, Rhinolophus, Kerivoula) (Kingston et al. 2003). This pattern is also seen in the Neotropics, although to a lesser extent (e.g., Artibeus/Demanura, Micronycteris, Lophostoma/Tonatia) (Voss and Emmons 1996; Simmons and Voss 1998). Selection of hotspots based on species richness would value a site where selection based on genera would not, potentially leading to missed conservation opportunities.

To combat issues related to taxonomic stability, conservation should implement approaches that emphasize the uniqueness of taxa or areas (Gippoliti and Groves 2012). Newer methods for conservation often emphasize evolutionary uniqueness in concert with extinction risk when choosing priority protection areas (Collen et al. 2011). However, regardless of taxonomic resolution, the hotspot approach may be unlikely to reduce extinction risk in areas such as the Andes, where high species richness is correlated with areas with low human disturbance (Fjeldså 2000). The hotspot approach in this case ignores species at greatest risk in areas with high levels of human contact and may result in directing more resources to areas that require little intervention. Complementarity takes into account human development, selecting sites that may not have high biodiversity, but would result in conservation of more species in the area.

The relative taxonomic stability of bats means that some conservation decisions may be easier to make. But it does not mean that hotspot approaches are always appropriate. Instead of focusing on overall species richness, some area selection approaches focus on an umbrella species, or a variation thereof: focal, keystone, flagship, or threatened species (Lambeck 1997; Roberge and Angelstam 2004), with the assumption that protection of their habitat will benefit other organisms in the area. This approach often focuses on “charismatic megafauna,” such as tigers, elephants, and primates, that are large-bodied as these species tend to have larger area requirements (Roberge and Angelstam 2004) and overlooks species with specialized habitat requirements or niche habitats, such as limestone karsts, that are irrelevant to large animals. Such niche habitats may be crucial to the survival of rare and endemic taxa with small ranges and narrow niches, such as threatened bat species such as Kitti's hog-nosed bat (C. thonglongyai) and the Thailand leafnosed bat (Hipposideros halophyllus).

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