Turtle biogeography: Global regionalization and conservation priorities

Biological Conservation
By: , and 



Defaunation in the Anthropocene has created a need to focus limited conservation resources on geographically-explicit areas with high conservation significance. Priority conservation areas are often defined as those with high biodiversity – hotspots. While these conservation areas are critical to securing global biodiversity, prevailing approaches for their delineation are often qualitative. Here, we demonstrate the benefits of a clade-specific approach that improves conservation. We use the distinct, imperiled clade of turtles (tortoises and freshwater turtles) to delineate biogeographical regions and characterize their comparative levels of biodiversity and conservation values. We produce a quantitative, revisable map of 63 global turtle regions and identify several turtle regions, mostly in the Indomalayan turtle realm, that are high-priority conservation regions. While our high-priority turtle regions include those previously reported in the literature as turtle hotspots, we also describe a new priority conservation region in Southeast Asia (Yangtze-Huang He-Xi Yiang) which has both high species and endemism richness. Although not considered a high or intermediate conservation priority, our analyses delineated another previously unidentified turtle hotspot – the Kalahari Basin-Rift Valley. Additionally, we identify several turtle regions, largely in Central America, with intermediate conservation priority. Our results reveal that many turtle hotspots represent complex biogeographical areas with high inter-regional β-diversity, and several of these turtle-hotspots occur in transition zones with high biogeographical complexity. In these cases, inter-regional conservation efforts will be necessary to ensure turtle biodiversity conservation.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Turtle biogeography: Global regionalization and conservation priorities
Series title Biological Conservation
DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2019.108323
Volume 241
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description 108323, 11 p.