Reserve selection using Red Listed taxa in three global biodiversity hotspots: Dragonflies in South Africa
The Red List can be used a gauging tool by conservationists to assess which species require focused conservation attention. Mapping the relative distributions of species, and identification of centers of richness, endemism and threat are a first step towards site-oriented conservation action. We use here a specially developed biodiversity index, based on three weighted sub-components assigned to each species: geographical distribution, Red List status, and sensitivity to habitat change. We test this approach using what is called here the Dragonfly Biotic Index (DBI) to prioritize sites for conservation action, with special emphasis on species occurrence in three global hotspots in southern Africa. Using a selected set of the 23 top prioritized sites, we compare the DBI's performance to that of a rarity-complementarity algorithm. As with several other taxa, local endemism levels are highest in the Cape Floristic Region (CFR), while richness is highest in the north east, particularly in the stream systems of the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany (MPA) hotspot. Red Listed Odonata species are also concentrated in the CFR, while richness is highest in the MPA hotspot. Site prioritization using the DBI reveals that CFR sites protect Red Listed taxa rather well, despite the fact that catchments are only partially protected. The DBI demonstrates high levels of redundancy in representing Red Listed species, in other words, the same species are represented in several catchments. The value in the DBI thus lies in maximizing redundancy (i.e. representation) of globally Red Listed species. The rarity-complementarity algorithm represents all species, but without greater emphasis on the rare and threatened (i.e. Red Listed) species. We conclude that the DBI is of great value in selecting biodiversity hotspots, while the algorithm is useful for selecting complementarity hotspots. We identify protection gaps and thus recommend continued searches in centers of endemism and existing reserves, as well as gap areas. These searches will hone Red List assessments and identify priority sites, as well as monitor already-identified sites for changes in quality of habitat. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.