Changing lenses to assess biodiversity: patterns of species richness in sub-Antarctic plants and implications for global conservation Page: 131
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Changing lenses to assess biodiversity:
patterns of species richness in sub-Antarctic
plants and implications for global
Ricardo Rozzi,2,3*, Juan J Armesto3'4, Bernard Goffinet5, William Buck6, Francisca Massardo2'3, John Silander5,
Mary TK Arroyo3, Shaun Russell7, Christopher B Anderson2'3, Lohengrin A Cavieres3'8, and J Baird Callicott1
Taxonomic groups and ecoregions shape the "lenses" through which biodiversity is assessed and conserved. A
historical bias toward vertebrates and vascular plants in the northern hemisphere underpins how global pat-
terns of biodiversity in terrestrial ecosystems are perceived. Here, we focus on the hitherto overlooked non-vas-
cular flora (liverworts and mosses) in the remote sub-Antarctic Magellanic ecoregion of southwestern South
America. We report that: (1) this ecoregion hosts outstanding non-vascular floristic richness, with > 5% of the
world's bryophytes on < 0.01 % of the Earth's land surface; (2) species richness patterns for vascular and non-vas-
cular plants are inverted across 25 degrees of latitude in Chile; and (3) while vascular plants are 20 times more
abundant than non-vascular plants globally and in tropical South America, non-vascular plants are dominant
in the sub-Antarctic Magellanic ecoregion and Antarctic Peninsula. These findings have been translated into
policy and conservation decisions, including the creation of the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve in 2005 and the
introduction there of "tourism with a hand lens" in the diverse "miniature forests" of bryophytes, lichens, and
invertebrates. We argue for consideration of ecoregional- or biome-specific indicator groups, rather than a nar-
row set of global indicator groups, for designing effective conservation strategies.
Front Ecol Environ 2008; 6(3): 131-137, doi:10.1890/070020
patterns of species richness and endemism used to
identify priority areas for biodiversity conservation
are strongly biased by our differential knowledge of taxo-
nomic groups, as well as by contrasts in the existence of
studies and data among geographical and ecological
regions (Isaac et al. 2004; Lawler et al. 2006). In past
decades, influential assessments of global priorities for
In a nutshell:
* At high latitude ecoregions, non-vascular flora should be
included in floristic richness assessments
* Reverse latitudinal trends of vascular and non-vascular plant
diversity challenge the universality of latitudinal species-rich-
* Inconspicuous taxonomic groups such as bryophytes can be
important in promoting conservation, when their ecological
and aesthetic values are understood by the general public and
* Metaphors and narratives generated by ecologists can be pow-
erful tools for promoting local conservation and ecotourism
iDepartment of Philosophy, University of North Texas, Denton, TX
76201 *(email@example.com); 2Omora Ethnobotanical Park, Universidad
de Magallanes, Puerto Williams, Antarctic Province, Chile; 3Institute
of Ecology and Biodiversity, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de
Chile, Casilla 653, Santiago, Chile; 4Center for Advanced Studies in
Ecology and Biodiversity, Pontificia Universidad Cat6lica de Chile,
Alameda 340, Santiago, Chile (continued on last page)
conservation have relied on geographic differences in the
concentration of diversity and endemism of vertebrates
and vascular plants (Myers et al. 2000; Rodrigues et al.
2004; Lamoreux et al. 2006). Taxonomic bias is also illus-
trated by the fact that more than 80% of the publications
on animal conservation during the past 20 years have
been devoted to vertebrate species, despite the fact that
vertebrates represent less than 5% of the known faunal
diversity (Clark and May 2002). Among vertebrates,
birds and mammals (endotherms) are favored, being the
focus of more than 70% of published articles, despite the
fact that ectotherms (fishes, amphibians, and reptiles)
comprise more than 70% of species, and include most of
the threatened vertebrate taxa (Bonnet et al. 2002).
Attention has not previously been called to analogous
taxonomic biases in plant conservation studies. However,
preliminary analyses indicate that the majority of publi-
cations on plant conservation focus solely on vascular
flora. During the past decade, non-vascular plant conser-
vation articles have remained marginal and diversity pat-
terns of non-vascular flora poorly documented (Rozzi et
al. in prep).
Regarding biases among geographical and ecological
regions in the literature, conservation research has
strongly concentrated on the northern hemisphere, with
temperate forest biomes of North America and Europe
accounting for 30% of publications with a conservation
focus (Lawler et al. 2006). In contrast, few studies have
The Ecological Society of America www.frontiersinecology.org
The Ecological Society of America
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Rozzi, Ricardo, 1960-; Armesto, Juan J., 1953-; Goffinet, Bernard; Buck, William R., 1950-; Massardo, Francisca; Silander, John August, 1945- et al. Changing lenses to assess biodiversity: patterns of species richness in sub-Antarctic plants and implications for global conservation, article, 2008; [Washington, D.C.]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc130194/m1/1/: accessed September 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Arts and Sciences.