Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Innovative framework to safeguard biodiversity

Biological variation enables species to adapt to an altered natural environment. This invaluable form of biodiversity can now be better protected thanks to the efforts of an EU initiative.
Innovative framework to safeguard biodiversity
Changes to the landscape through human activities cause the fragmentation of natural habitats. The result is that many species are unable to shift their ranges in the face of climate change and must adapt to altered conditions. To maximise their chances of doing so requires biological variation within a species (intraspecific variation), which urgently needs to be conserved.

The PROTECTINGBIOFACCTS (Protecting biodiversity in the face of climate change) project developed a conservation prioritisation framework. The framework incorporates intraspecific with more traditionally used methods for identifying areas that require protection.

Project partners tested the framework's overall effectiveness in different areas worldwide with various landscapes, habitats and levels of human encroachment from small- to large-scale ranges. In Bulgaria, Romania and three central African countries, they gathered genetic and morphological data from about a dozen species, including plants, invertebrates and vertebrates.

Using newly developed spatial modelling methods, researchers mapped intraspecific variation and identified areas where this variation can be best protected. They sampled and genetically typed thousands of individual plants and animals. Findings show that the framework is useful for conservation planning in a variety of landscape types and at medium scales where strategic areas for conservation broadly coincide among species. Genetic data must be heavily considered during conservation prioritisation. Among key areas to protect, the southern slopes of the Carpathian Mountains along Bulgaria and Romania are inadequately protected by current and proposed Natura 2000 sites.

Data also answered fundamental questions about the ecology and evolution of species in these areas. Isolation due to distance plays a minor role in population divergence, which implies that natural selection that results in isolation by the environment may be more of a key factor in diversification than previously considered.

PROTECTINGBIOFACCTS provided a better understanding of the relationship between biotic and abiotic variation. Moreover, it will greatly enhance the implementation of the developed framework in the area of conservation prioritisation together with recommendations for its use.

Related information


Biodiversity, intraspecific variation, PROTECTINGBIOFACCTS, conservation prioritisation
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