How well do ecosystem-based planning units represent different components of biodiversity?

R. Mac Nally, A.F. Bennett, G.W. Brown, Linda F. Lumsden, Alan Yen, S. Hinkley, P. Lillywhite, Dale Ward

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    109 Citations (Scopus)


    There are many proposals for managing biodiversity by using surrogates, such as umbrella, indicator, focal, and flagship species. We use the term biodiversity management unit for any ecosystem-based classificatory scheme for managing biodiversity. The sufficiency of biodiversity management unit classification schemes depends upon (1) whether different biotic elements (e.g., trees, birds, reptiles) distinguish between biodiversity management units within a classification (i.e., coherence within classes); and (2) whether different biotic elements agree upon similarities and dissimilarities among biodiversity management unit classes (i.e., conformance among classes). Recent evaluations suggest that biodiversity surrogates based on few or single taxa are not useful. Ecological vegetation classes are an ecosystem-based classification scheme used as one component for biodiversity management in Victoria, Australia. Here we evaluated the potential for ecological vegetation classes to be used as biodiversity management units in the box-ironbark ecosystem of central Victoria, Australia. Eighty sites distributed among 14 ecological vegetation classes were surveyed in the same ways for tree species, birds, mammals, reptiles, terrestrial invertebrates, and nocturnal flying insects. Habitat structure and geographic separations also were measured, which, with the biotic elements, are collectively referred to as variables. Less than half of the biotic element-ecological vegetation class pairings were coherent. Generalized Mantel tests were used to examine conformance among variables with respect to ecological vegetation classes. While most tests were not significant, birds, mammals, tree species, and habitat structure together showed significant agreement on the rating of similarities among ecological vegetation classes. In this system, use of ecological vegetation classes as biodiversity management units may account reasonably well for birds, mammals, and trees; but reptiles and invertebrates would not be accommodated. We conclude that surrogates will usually have to be augmented or developed as hierarchies to provide general representativeness.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)900-912
    Number of pages13
    JournalEcological Applications
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2002


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