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1 September 2016 Rocking Earth's Biodiversity Cradle: Challenges, Advances, and Prospects for Conservation Paleontology in the Tropics
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Increased human activity and environmental disturbances are currently eroding the high biodiversity of the tropics. Insights from the fossil record have the potential to inform conservation decisions in these regions. Conservation paleontology has played a transformative role in defining appropriate conservation goals in temperate systems, and recent applications in the tropics showcase the broad applicability of this field. Here, we highlight paleontology's role in the conservation of the tropics. We show that community-level and species-level responses commonly detected by paleontologists, such as range shifts, inform present-day population trajectories and functional diversity changes. Furthermore, advances in techniques such as ancient DNA recovery make querying ancient tropical diversity more tractable. These analyses have direct applications to policies ranging from reserve design to species reintroductions. Despite these breakthroughs, much work still remains for conservation paleontology to reach its full potential in the tropics. Increased regional coverage is necessary for areas such as Southeast Asia and the Amazon, two biogeographically important regions with highly threatened faunas. Taxonomic sampling biases must be eliminated, and we call for additional data representing amphibians and birds, which are underrepresented in paleontological data sets of terrestrial vertebrates. We also recommend further analyses of existing reptile collections, which are abundant but underutilized because of a dearth of comparative collections. We highlight recent contributions to conservation paleontology in these taxonomic groups and regions whenever possible, and showcase successful collaborations between paleontologists, neontologists, and conservationists outside of academia to illustrate the influence paleontologists can exert in conservation efforts.

© by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Melissa E. Kemp and Elizabeth A. Hadly "Rocking Earth's Biodiversity Cradle: Challenges, Advances, and Prospects for Conservation Paleontology in the Tropics," Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 36(5), (1 September 2016).
Received: 23 September 2015; Accepted: 1 February 2016; Published: 1 September 2016

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