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It is essential to understand whether conservation interventions are having the desired effect, particularly in light of increasing pressures on biodiversity and because of requirements by donors that project success be demonstrated. Whilst most evaluations look at effectiveness at a project or organizational level, local efforts need to be connected to an understanding of the effectiveness of conservation directed at a species as a whole, particularly as most metrics of conservation success are at the level of species. We present a framework for measuring the effectiveness of conservation attention at a species level over time, based on scoring eight factors essential for species conservation (engaging stakeholders, management programme, education and awareness, funding and resource mobilization, addressing threats, communication, capacity building and status knowledge), across input, output and outcome stages, in relation to the proportion of the species’ range where each factor attains its highest score. The framework was tested using expert elicitation for 35 mammal and amphibian species on the Zoological Society of London's list of Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered species. Broad patterns in the index produced by the framework could suggest potential mechanisms underlying change in species status. Assigning an uncertainty score to information demonstrates not only where gaps in knowledge exist, but discrepancies in knowledge between experts. This framework could be a useful tool to link local and global scales of impact on species conservation, and could provide a simple and visually appealing way of tracking conservation over time.
1. Coalescent-based species delimitation methods combine population genetic and phylogenetic theory to provide an objective means for delineating evolutionarily significant units of diversity. The generalised mixed Yule coalescent (GMYC) and the Poisson tree process (PTP) are methods that use ultrametric (GMYC or PTP) or non-ultrametric (PTP) gene trees as input, intended for use mostly with single-locus data such asDNAbarcodes. 2. Here, we assess how robust the GMYC and PTP are to different phylogenetic reconstruction and branch smoothingmethods.We reconstruct over 400 ultrametric trees using up to 30 different combinations of phylogenetic and smoothing methods and perform over 2000 separate species delimitation analyses across 16 empirical data sets. We then assess how variable diversity estimates are, in terms of richness and identity, with respect to species delimitation, phylogenetic and smoothing methods. 3. The PTP method generally generates diversity estimates that are more robust to different phylogenetic methods. The GMYC is more sensitive, but provides consistent estimates for BEAST trees. The lower consistency of GMYC estimates is likely a result of differences among gene trees introduced by the smoothing step. Unresolved nodes (real anomalies or methodological artefacts) affect both GMYC and PTP estimates, but have a greater effect on GMYC estimates. Branch smoothing is a difficult step and perhaps an underappreciated source of bias that may be widespread among studies of diversity and diversification. 4. Nevertheless, careful choice of phylogenetic method does produce equivalent PTP and GMYC diversity estimates. We recommend simultaneous use of the PTP model with any model-based gene tree (e.g. RAxML) and GMYCapproaches with BEAST trees for obtaining species hypotheses.
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