A new study published in Nature explores where exactly conservation measures in high-diversity regions-called biodiversity hotspots-might be most effective. A team of international scientists genetically analyzed hundreds of plant species in South Africa's cape region, where 70 percent of the flora is found nowhere else. The team learned that the western side of the region is dense with many closely related species. The eastern side is more "phylogenetically diverse": it has fewer numbers of different species, yet its plants are less closely related, thus representing more branches on the tree of life.
The scientists concluded that preserving phylogenetically diverse regions such as the eastern Cape region may prove to be more practical to humanity in the long run. The strategy would save a greater variety of plants that could ultimately prove useful to humankind, such as providing food and medicine.