n African Entomology - Conservation application of existing data for South African millipedes (Diplopoda)

Volume 10, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1021-3589



While there are currently several initiatives to identify priority areas for conservation, invertebrates, which may comprise as much as 95 % of biodiversity, are generally excluded from such activities. It is assumed that vegetation types and patterns of floral diversity will adequately reflect those of the underlying diversity, invertebrates. A lack of adequate data and expertise are the main contributing factors to the exclusion of invertebrates. Existing data for South African millipedes were evaluated in terms of usefulness for biodiversity conservation planning and management. We used databases from several museums and published records. Large gaps exist in the collecting coverage of South Africa, and many records date back to the early part of the last century. Quarter-degree grid cells containing the highest species richness, and the highest number of endemic species coincide with intensively collected areas and this approach thus has limited application for conservation planning. The number of site endemics (maximum distance between localities < 10 km) was 243, local endemics (11 km < maximum distance < 70 km) was 102, and regional endemics (71 km < maximum distance < 150 km) was 44, while the total number of South African endemics was 430 (89 % of 484 described species). While grid cells we identify as having the highest number of endemics may not be the only grids with high levels of endemism, as many as 20 endemic species are found within some quarter-degree cells. While patterns are partially explained by a collecting artefact, additional collecting will only increase the number of range-restricted species. The highest levels of narrow endemics occur in the smaller bodied, less mobile millipede families such as the Dalodesmidae, Gomphodesmidae and Odontopygidae, which have radiated in isolated habitats such as forests. Most parts of South Africa are inhabited by a large number of range-restricted endemics. Because of the large number of widely distributed site endemics, it would be impossible to conserve all species in formal state reserves. Millipedes may represent similar patterns of diversity to other soil and saproxylic animals, which all play critical roles in soil nutrient cycles. Although the data are incomplete, given the urgency created by rapid land-use change in South Africa, it is critical that taxon specialists evaluate their data and use these to identify important patterns and trends for improved biodiversity conservation efforts. In addition, efforts should be made to Red List invertebrates to highlight the extent of threats to the major component of biodiversity.

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