Limitations of habitats as biodiversity surrogates for conservation planning in estuaries

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Journal article
Shokri, Mohammad and Gladstone, William 2013, 'Limitations of habitats as biodiversity surrogates for conservation planning in estuaries', Springer, vol. 185, pp. 3477-3492.
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Increasing pressures on global biodiversity and lack of data on the number and abundance of species have motivated conservation planners and researchers to use more readily available information as proxies or surrogates for biodiversity. "Habitat" is one of the most frequently used surrogates but its assumed value in marine conservation planning is not often tested. The present study developed and tested three alternative habitat classification schemes of increasing complexity for a large estuary in south-east Australia and tested their effectiveness in predicting spatial variation in macroinvertebrate biodiversity and selecting estuarine protected areas to represent species. The three habitat classification schemes were: (1) broad-scale habitats (e.g., mangroves and seagrass), (2) subdivision of each broad-scale habitat by a suite of environmental variables that varied significantly throughout the estuary, and (3) subdivision of each broad-scale habitat by the subset of environmental variables that best explained spatial variation in macroinvertebrate biodiversity. Macroinvertebrate assemblages differed significantly among the habitats in each classification scheme. For each classification scheme, habitat richness was significantly correlated with species richness, total density of macroinvertebrates, assemblage dissimilarity, and summed irreplaceability. However, in a reserve selection process designed to represent examples of each habitat, no habitat classification scheme represented species significantly better than a random selection of sites. Habitat classification schemes may represent variation in estuarine biodiversity; however, the results of this study suggest they are inefficient in designing representative networks of estuarine protected areas.
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