Thai limestone karsts : an impending biodiversity crisis

Abstract : Due to the high level of endemic species that they support and the high threats they are facing, such as unsustainable limestone quarrying, hunting and urbanization, limestone karsts are recognized as biodiversity hotspots needing urgent protection. The first aim of our study was to investigate the mammal rodent diversity of Thai limestone karsts. Our second aim was to examine the diversity at a finer scale than the species level (intraspecific biodiversity) using phylogeographic approaches. Therefore, we studied the phylogeographic structure of a threatened rodent, endemic to limestone karsts of Thailand, the Murinae Leopoldamys neilli. We sampled 76 limestone karsts in whole Thailand and live-trapped 444 rodents including 115 Leopoldamys neilli. Our study revealed an important rodent diversity in Thai limestone karsts. Besides endemic rodent species, karsts also host typical forest species to which they provide forest refugia in deforested regions. At the intraspecific level, our study revealed an unexpected high level of genetic differentiation within the rodent species L. neilli. As each limestone area of Thailand is characterized by a particular genetic lineage of L. neilli, the destruction of these karsts would lead to the disappearance of unique intraspecific strains not found elsewhere. Our results highlight the importance of protecting limestone habitats to preserve not only their interspecific but also intraspecific rodent diversity that is highly threatened as more than 20% of limestone karsts in Thailand have already been quarried. Management plans of limestone, a non-renewable resource, should urgently take into account this high biological importance of karsts.
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Alice Latinne, Surachit Waengsothorn, Vincent Herbreteau, Johan R. Michaux. Thai limestone karsts : an impending biodiversity crisis. International Conference on Environmental Supporting in Food and Energy Security : Crisis and Opportunity, Mar 2011, Bangkok, Thailand. pp.176-187. ⟨ird-00714455⟩

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