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Single Species as Indicators of Species Richness and Composition in California Coastal Sage Scrub Birds and Small Mammals

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Individual species may be useful as indicators of biodiversity if an association exists between the presence of a species and another component of biodiversity. We evaluated 40 species of birds and small mammals, including 11 species of conservation concern, as potential indicators of species richness and species composition in southern California coastal sage scrub habitats. This habitat, which is the target of large-scale conservation planning, has been greatly reduced by human development and supports many plants and animals of conservation concern. We asked whether there is an association between the presence of a potential indicator species and the species richness and composition of the bird or small-mammal community in which it is found. We used point counts and live-trapping to quantify the distribution of birds and small mammals, respectively, at 155 points in 16 sites located in three counties. Of the few species we found associated with species richness, some were associated with higher species richness and others with lower richness, and species of conservation concern were not more frequently associated with species richness than were common species. Ordination analysis revealed a geographic gradient in coastal sage scrub bird and small-mammal species composition across southern California, and 18 of the species we evaluated were associated with the composition of the bird and small-mammal community in which they were found. Our results suggest that efforts to conserve bird and small-mammal biodiversity in coastal sage scrub should not focus exclusively on rare species or on locations with the highest species richness, but instead should focus on a diverse suite of species that are representative of the range of variation in communities found in coastal sage scrub habitats.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Biology and Center for Conservation Biology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, U.S.A.

Publication date: April 1, 2000

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