Higher taxa are effective surrogates for species in the selection of conservation reserves in estuaries

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Journal Article
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 2009, 19 (6), pp. 626 - 636
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1. The lack of information about marine biodiversity is problematic for the selection of conservation reserves that aim to protect representative samples of biodiversity. A number of surrogate measures for biodiversity have been suggested as a potential solution to this problem. 2. The present study tested the effectiveness of using higher taxa of macroinvertebrates as a surrogate for species-level identification to depict spatial variation in species richness and assemblage variation and to select conservation reserves in one estuary in south-east Australia. 3. Spatial patterns of richness and assemblage variation for species were significantly correlated with patterns defined from genera, families, orders, classes, and phyla with a decline in the magnitude of correlation coefficients from finer to coarser resolutions. A network of reserves selected to include representatives of all phyla, classes, orders, families and genera coincidentally included 54%, 61.7%, 75%, 92.6%, 98.8% species in 8.3%, 13.9%, 17.7%, 44.4% and 58.3% of grid cells, respectively. However, only reserves selected for genera, families and orders performed significantly better than random selection. 4. Percentage of species represented by orders, families and genera in a realistic level of available grid cells for conservation (i.e. 13.9%) were very close ranging between 70 and 73.5%. A factor diminishing the performance of order as surrogate for species richness was related to the difficulty of identifying many macroinvertebrates to the order level. Therefore, it is concluded that genus- and family-level identification is an effective surrogate for species-level identification for conservation planning in estuaries. © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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