Table_1_Drilling Down Hotspots of Intraspecific Diversity to Bring Them Into On-Ground Conservation of Threatened Species.DOCX

Unprecedented rates of biodiversity loss raise the urgency for preserving species ability to cope with ongoing global changes. An approach in this direction is to target intra-specific hotspots of genetic diversity as conservation priorities. However, these hotspots are often identified by sampling at a spatial resolution too coarse to be useful in practical management of threatened species, hindering the long-appealed dialog between conservation stakeholders and conservation genetic researchers. Here, we investigated the spatial and temporal variation in species presence, genetic diversity, as well as potential risk factors, within a previously identified hotspot of genetic diversity for the endangered Apennine yellow-bellied toad Bombina pachypus. Our results show that this hotspot is neither a geographically homogeneous nor a temporally stable unit. Over a time-window spanning 10–40 years since previous assessments, B. pachypus populations declined in large portions of their hotspot, and their genetic diversity levels decreased. Considering the demographic trend, genetic and epidemiological data, and models of current and future climatic suitability, populations at the extreme south of the hotspot area still qualify for urgent in-situ conservation actions, whereas northern populations would be better managed through a mix of in-situ and ex-situ actions. Our results emphasize that identifying hotspots of genetic diversity, albeit an essential step, does not suffice to warrant on-ground conservation of threatened species. Hotspots should be analyzed at finer geographic and temporal scales, to provide conservation stakeholders with key knowledge to best define conservation priorities, and to optimize resource allocation to alternative management practices.