Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 23, Issue 9, pp 2135–2154 | Cite as

Plant communities as a tool for setting priorities in biodiversity conservation: a novel approach to Iberian aquatic vegetation

  • Alberto Benavent-González
  • Ana Lumbreras
  • José A. Molina
Original Paper


Although conservation efforts are traditionally based on species red lists or similar documents, recent initiatives are starting to shift this scope to include other biodiversity structures and biological classifications. Plant communities have been indicated as being among the most promising categories for setting conservation priorities but their importance and potential is still underestimated. In this study we develop a conservation priority list based on aquatic plant communities of the Iberian Peninsula. Four criteria were used to perform a cumulative point-scoring ranking: regional responsibility, local rarity, wealth of its endangered flora, and habitat vulnerability. Our ranking constitutes the first comprehensive classification of aquatic vegetation in relation to its conservation priorities in Southern Europe. It reveals that amphibious communities are the most important vegetation target for conservation in Iberia related to oligotrophic environments with a bioclimatic Atlantic distribution. Plant communities characteristic of eutrophic waters or widely distributed were found to be cause for less concern when setting conservation priorities. Our results bring to light various discrepancies and gaps in current conservation laws affecting the Iberian Peninsula. Our study highlights the potential of plant communities in biodiversity conservation as they provide valuable information of habitat singularity, and supports that neither the sole use of species nor large scale approaches unaware of regional singularities are appropriate in setting conservation priorities.


Biodiversity conservation Conservation priority lists Ecological communities Europe Habitat assessment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alberto Benavent-González
    • 1
  • Ana Lumbreras
    • 1
  • José A. Molina
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Biología Vegetal IIUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain

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