The broad question asked is ?Are there species or groups of species that can be used to infer habitat condition for a variety of other species, and, if so, which ones?? The problem is that of developing credible approaches to planning for sustaining biodiversity and monitoring apparent success in planned efforts. Specifically, there are too many species for each to be addressed individually in planning, practice or monitoring. This project documents ways of simplifying the task and employing coarse filters cost effectively. It addresses three broad activities: planning for sustainable forestry, selecting and distributing practices for sustainability, and monitoring. It exploits two patterns in nature: 1) some species have very similar habitat affinities that are well documented, but often not generalized, and 2) other species show responses to habitat change that are poorly understood but highly correlated and repeatable. In each case, a smaller number of species can credibly assess the likelihood that other species will be present. Ecological theory argues that 1:1 relations among species? responses to habitat are impossible, but the statistical variability (risk) can be quantified and frequently is relatively small.
Much has been written on the use of flagship, umbrella or keystone species as surrogates to represent needs of all species; each has weaknesses. Flagship species usually have high public profile, but often do not represent the rest of the community and require large resources to monitor (Caro & O?Doherty 1999; Simberloff 1998). Using umbrella species, whose needs encompass those of many other species, is an attractive concept, but whether other species fall ?under the umbrella? is often more a matter of faith than of evidence (Roberge & Anglestam 2004). Monitoring keystone species, those that play critical roles in a community, has promise (Simberloff 1998), but keystone species are difficult to identify and the notion that only a few species are critical to the ecosystem is contrary to some theories of community ecology. The complexity of ecological interactions and ignorance about them argue against strict application of keystone species as focus for monitoring (Mills et al. 1993).
Similarly, reviews of species-based monitoring approaches reveal that no single species, nor even a group of species, accurately reflect entire communities. Understanding the response of a single species may not provide reliable predictions of a group of species even when the group consists of a few very similar species (Lindenmayer 1999). Typically, one group of organisms (e.g., vascular plants) is not a comprehensive surrogate for responses of other groups (e.g., insects or lichens; Chiarucci et al. 2005; Grenyer et al. 2006; Oliver et al. 1998). Failure of species-based biodiversity surrogates has occurred across a wide range of environments (Lindenmayer and Fisher 2003). Despite weaknesses of any single approach, we still need to select species to monitor. We propose specific ways of doing that (see methods).
The project was initially viewed as potentially lasting three-years with reduced costs in the third year. Briefly:
Year 1: primarily office based and analytical, devise simple field tests, implement the simplest tests, assess ability to incorporate non-vertebrate species, report findings to date.
Year 2: continue analytical approach incorporating non-vertebrates, implement field tests, report findings to date.
Year 3: with industrial and government partners, implement focused analyses for specific areas that permit implementation of findings; journal publications; summary report.
A major thrust of this project is to analyze appropriate data collected over 16 years at many sites. These include coastal sites on Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii and the mainland coast (TFL?s 37 and 39); southeastern sites in the Cranbrook and Inveremere TSAs, and northeastern sites (TFL 48, Fort St. John and Fort Nelson TSAs) ...
Bunnell, Fred L., Kremsater, Laurie L.. 2009. Using few species to assess the sustainability of many species. Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program. Forest Investment Account Report. FIA2009MR413
Topic: FLNRORD Research Program
Keywords: Forest, Investment, Account, (FIA), British, Columbia
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