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Higher Taxa as Surrogates of Plant Biodiversity in a Megadiverse Country

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An important question in conservation biology is the extent to which the number of taxonomic supraspecific categories can serve as surrogates of species richness. This issue has been little explored in highly diverse areas. We used 113 floristic inventories from throughout Mexico, a megadiverse country, to evaluate the potential of higher-taxon richness for predicting local species richness of vascular plants. This large biodiversity data set includes the main vegetation types found across the country. In all, 247 families, 2,398 genera, and 11,890 species were used for the analysis, representing 99.6%, 90.2%, and 53.2% of the respective totals recorded in the country. We hypothesized that the number of genera and species would be accurately predicted by the richness of the higher taxon. To avoid getting spurious regressions resulting from the logical increase in lower-taxon richness as a higher taxon becomes richer, we calculated new response variables by subtracting from the number of elements in the lower taxon group the number of those in the higher taxon; these variables were “excess species” (number of species minus number of genera or families) and “excess genera” (number of genera minus number of families). Our results indicate that genera provide very effective surrogates for estimation of local species richness ( R2= 0.85), whereas families have a more limited potential for this purpose ( R2= 0.64). The predictive capacity of the diversity of higher taxon increased when the analyses were constrained to particular vegetation types (maximum R2= 0.95 for genera). This surrogate method may be a valuable tool in locating and designing representative systems of protected areas for vascular plant diversity, especially in megadiverse countries, where conservation efforts are hindered by the lack of complete inventories and insufficient resources.
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Keywords: Mexico; México; biodiversidad; biodiversity; higher-taxon surrogates; plantas vasculares; taxones superiores como indicadores indirectos; vascular plants

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Antigua Carretera a Pátzcuaro 8701, Col. San José de la Huerta, 58190 Morelia, Michoacán, México 2: Departamento de Ecología y Recursos Naturales, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 04510 México, D. F. México 3: Departamento de Botánica, Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México Apartado Postal 70-233, 04510 México, D. F. México

Publication date: February 1, 2005

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