Plant Endemism Centres and Biodiversity Hotspots in Greece

Abstract

Biodiversity hotspots (BH) cover a small fraction of the Earth’s surface, yet host numerous en-demics. Human-induced biodiversity loss has been increasing worldwide, despite attempts to halt the extinction crisis. There is thus an urgent need to efficiently allocate the available con-servation funds in an optimised conservation prioritization scheme. Identifying BH and ende-mism centres (EC) is therefore a valuable tool in conservation prioritization and planning. Even though Greece is one of the most plant species-rich European countries, few studies have dealt with the identification of BH or EC and none has ever incorporated phylogenetic information or extended to the national scale. Consequently, we are unaware of the extent that Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) of the Natura 2000 network efficiently protect Greek plant diversity. Here, we located for the first time at a national scale and in a phylogenetic framework, the areas serv-ing as BH and EC, and assessed the effectiveness of the Greek SAC in safeguarding them. BH and EC are mainly located near mountainous areas, and in areas supposedly floristically impover-ished, such as the central Aegean islands. A critical re-assessment of the Greek SAC might be needed to minimize the extinction risk of the Greek endemics, by focusing the conservation ef-forts also on the BH and EC that fall outside the established Greek SAC.

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