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The ED strategy: how species-level surrogates indicate general biodiversity patterns through an ‘environmental diversity’ perspective

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Biodiversity assessment requires that we use surrogate information in practice to indicate more general biodiversity patterns. ‘ED’ refers to a surrogates framework that can link species data and environmental information based on a robust relationship of compositional dissimilarities to ordinations that indicate underlying environmental variation. In an example analysis of species and environmental data from Panama, the environmental and spatial variables that correlate with an hybrid multi-dimensional scaling ordination were able to explain 83% of the variation in the corresponding Bray Curtis dissimilarities. The assumptions of ED also provide the rationale for its use of p-median optimization criteria to measure biodiversity patterns among sites in a region. M.B. Araújo, P.J. Densham & P.H. Williams (2004, Journal of Biogeography31, 1) have re-named ED as ‘AD’ in their evaluation of the surrogacy value of ED based on European species data. Because lessons from previous work on ED options consequently may have been neglected, we use a corroboration framework to investigate the evidence and ‘background knowledge’ presented in their evaluations of ED. Investigations focus on the possibility that their weak corroboration of ED surrogacy (non-significance of target species recovery relative to a null model) may be a consequence of Araújo et al.'s use of particular evidence and randomizations. We illustrate how their use of discrete ED, and not the recommended continuous ED, may have produced unnecessarily poor species recovery values. Further, possible poor optimization of their MDS ordinations, due to small numbers of simulations and/or low resolution of stress values appears to have provided a possible poor basis for ED application and, consequently, may have unnecessarily favoured non-corroboration results. Consideration of Araújo et al.'s randomizations suggests that acknowledged sampling biases in the European data have not only artefactually promoted the non-significance of ED recovery values, but also artefactually elevated the significance of competing species surrogates recovery values. We conclude that little credence should be given to the comparisons of ED and species-based complementarity sets presented in M.B. Araújo, P.J. Densham & P.H. Williams (2004, Journal of Biogeography31, 1), unless the factors outlined here can be analysed for their effects on results. We discuss the lessons concerning surrogates evaluation emerging from our investigations, calling for better provision in such studies of the background information that can allow (i) critical examination of evidence (both at the initial corroboration and re-evaluation stages), and (ii) greater synthesis of lessons about the pitfalls of different forms of evidence in different contexts.
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Keywords: Environmental diversity; Popper; biodiversity surrogates; conservation planning; corroboration; generalized dissimilarity modelling; multi-dimensional scaling; philosophy of science

Document Type: Guest Editorial

Affiliations: 1: Department of Environment and Conservation, Armidale, NSW 2: CSIRO, Sustainable Ecosystems, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Publication date: 2004-08-01

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