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Martin Westgate

Research Fellow
Fenner School of Environment & Society
Australian National University


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Dynamic species co-occurrence networks require dynamic biodiversity surrogates.

AIT Tulloch, I Chadés, Y Dujardin, MJ Westgate, PW Lane & DB Lindenmayer (2016) Ecography 10.1111/ecog.02143

First published 2016-01-14

Abstract

In conservation it is inevitable that surrogates be selected to represent the occurrence of hard‐to‐find species and find priority locations for management. However, species co‐occurrence can vary over time. Here we demonstrate how temporal dynamics in species co‐occurrence influence the ability of managers to choose the best surrogate species. We develop an efficient optimisation formulation that selects the optimal set of complementary surrogate species from any co‐occurrence network. We apply it to two Australian datasets on successional bird responses to disturbances of revegetation and fire. We discover that a surprisingly small number of species are required to represent the majority of species co‐occurrences at any one time. Because co‐occurrence patterns are temporally dynamic, the optimal set of surrogates, and the number of surrogates required to achieve a desired surrogacy power, depend on sampling effort and the successional state of a system. Overlap in optimal sets of surrogates for representing 70% of co‐occurring species ranges from zero to 57% depending on when the surrogacy decision is made. Surrogate sets representing early successional communities over‐estimate the power of surrogacy decisions at later times. Our results show that in dynamic systems, optimal surrogates might be selected in different ways: 1) use short‐term monitoring to choose a larger number of static less‐informative surrogates; 2) use long‐term monitoring to choose a smaller number of static high‐power surrogates that may poorly represent early successional co‐occurrence; 3) develop adaptive surrogate selection frameworks with high short‐term and long‐term surrogacy power that update surrogate sets and capture temporal dynamics in species co‐occurrence. Our results suggest vigilance is needed when selecting surrogates for other co‐occurring species in dynamic landscapes, as selected surrogates from one time may have reduced effectiveness at a different time. Ultimately, decisions that fail to acknowledge dynamic species co‐occurrence will lead to uninformative or redundant surrogates.

tags: ecological_surrogates