Evaluating β diversity as a surrogate for species representation at fine scale

Paul Beier, Fábio Albuquerque

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Species turnover or β diversity is a conceptually attractive surrogate for conservation planning. However, there has been only 1 attempt to determine how well sites selected to maximize β diversity represent species, and that test was done at a scale too coarse (2,500 km2 sites) to inform most conservation decisions. We used 8 plant datasets, 3 bird datasets, and 1 mammal dataset to evaluate whether sites selected to span β diversity will efficiently represent species at finer scale (sites sizes < 1 ha to 625 km2). We used ordinations to characterize dissimilarity in species assemblages (β diversity) among plots (inventory data) or among grid cells (atlas data). We then selected sites to maximize β diversity and used the Species Accumulation Index, SAI, to evaluate how efficiently the surrogate (selecting sites for maximum β diversity) represented species in the same taxon. Across all 12 datasets, sites selected for maximum β diversity represented species with a median efficiency of 24% (i.e., the surrogate was 24% more effective than random selection of sites), and an interquartile range of 4% to 41% efficiency. β diversity was a better surrogate for bird datasets than for plant datasets, and for atlas datasets with 10-km to 14-km grid cells than for atlas datasets with 25-km grid cells. We conclude that β diversity is more than a mere descriptor of how species are distributed on the landscape; in particular β diversity might be useful to maximize the complementarity of a set of sites. Because we tested only within-taxon surrogacy, our results do not prove that β diversity is useful for conservation planning. But our results do justify further investigation to identify the circumstances in which β diversity performs well, and to evaluate it as a cross-taxon surrogate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere151048
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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