Doctoral researcher Das Sunandan

60000 €

Prioritisation of African elapoid snakes for conservation using novel phylogenetic and functional diversity metrics

Tieteellinen tutkimus / siihen pohjautuva työ | Kaksivuotinen

We are losing biodiversity at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, it is impractical, in terms of resources, to aim conservation support to all the species. Therefore, we need to prioritise a subset of all the species for conservation. It is necessary for such prioritisation to be biologically meaningful. One of the most important prioritisation metrics is Phylogenetic diversity (PD) which seeks to maximise trait diversity and thus, option value for future. Though theoretically appealing, the actual ability of PD in terms of capturing adequate functional diversity (FD) and ensuring taxonomic diversity over a long stretch of time has recently been questioned. However, proponents of these opposing camps have the same objective (i.e., effective conservation planning) and PD and FD both have properties desirable for prioritising species for conservation. Therefore, I propose that a reconciliation is possible. Elapoidea is a superfamily of snakes with several clades in Africa. I am currently sequencing conserved elements of their genome to infer a phylogeny. I plan to use to phylogeny to compute PD for reduced sets of taxa. I also aim to compute FD, as functional richness, for the same reduced taxon sets. In the method that I propose, only those taxon sets with a significantly high PD and FD will be retained for downstream analyses. In a second round of filtering that will follow, only those taxon sets will be kept which have identical sets of species between the filtered PD and FD. From these taxon sets, three new metrics will be calculated which prioritises species sets for conservation with high degree of both PD and FD. This proposal is bold as it is the first attempt to prioritise species for conservation without compromising on either PD or FD and is guaranteed to always result in PD and FD which are better than it would have been if the taxa are chosen randomly or based on non-biological criteria. Hence, this method can usher in a new era of conservation planning.