Premise of research. Rain forest ecosystems globally are synonymous with biodiversity, yet these vegetation communities vary widely in structure and composition. Historical biogeography and environment are thought to have significantly impacted Australian rain forest diversity and composition. Rain forest in Australia is extensively fragmented, and detailed vegetation mapping is used as a tool for conservation and land management planning. In Queensland, a regional ecosystem (RE) vegetation classification scheme is used by land managers. However, there has been no assessment to date of how evenly rain forest RE types are conserved at a regional scale, whether those conserved are the best representatives of biodiversity, and whether there are significantly distinctive RE types that are relatively poorly conserved or not recognized for their significance to biodiversity conservation. Methodology. Our phylogeny for South East Queensland (SEQ) rain forest species, which encompasses 95% of rain forest species based on a unified three-marker DNA barcode, along with species lists were used for assessment of both species richness and phylogenetic diversity of RE types. We mapped the distribution of the most diverse and the most distinctive rain forest ecosystem types. Pivotal results. We found that there is enormous variation in phylogenetic diversity within and among rain forest RE types in SEQ, with some depauperate in species richness. We identified the rain forest RE types in SEQ containing the highest diversity as well as those significantly sampling a wide part of the SEQ rain forest species pool compared with other RE types with similar species richness. Conclusions. This study confirms that different RE types are not equivalent and so should not be considered as such in any conservation planning processes. Conservation assessment of ecosystems needs to take into account distinctiveness and diversity among types in order to gain better representativeness and complementarity across all RE types.
International Journal of Plant Sciences / Vol. 178, No. 3, pp.211-229