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Taxonomic resolution and treatment effects – alone and combined – can mask significant biodiversity reductions


Bozzuto, Claudio; Blanckenhorn, Wolf U (2017). Taxonomic resolution and treatment effects – alone and combined – can mask significant biodiversity reductions. The International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystems Services & Management, 13(1):86-99.

Abstract

Taxonomic resolution or uncertainty poses an important problem in biodiversity research. Assessment of biodiversity at the species level is most informative and preferred, but requires effort and expertise. Alternatively, researchers often bin species into higher taxa because they are unable to recognize them, or to save money and time. Here we analyse, by simulation and analytical modelling, the combined effects of dose-dependent mortality and taxonomic binning on biodiversity indices for a fictitious community of organisms. We asked (1) how binning species in a sample into higher taxa significantly affects biodiversity measures, and (2) whether dose-dependent mortality effects, alone or in combination with taxonomic uncertainty, are duly captured by classic biodiversity indices. Our study shows that haphazard binning into various taxonomic levels is legitimate and preferable to orderly binning (all taxa binned at the same level), because it provides the best resolution. We further show that binning will regularly obscure statistical detection of biodiversity differences, if only due to scaling of mean and variance. Also, treatment effects in combination with taxonomic uncertainty can introduce estimation biases of at times complex nonlinear and non-intuitive nature under any taxonomic resolution scenario, potentially including relative increases in the biodiversity index when intuitively decreases would be expected. We recommend being specific about the expected qualitative and quantitative effects of any treatment or natural comparison before formulating a hypothesis regarding biodiversity reductions. Our theoretical study should aid in this endeavour.

Abstract

Taxonomic resolution or uncertainty poses an important problem in biodiversity research. Assessment of biodiversity at the species level is most informative and preferred, but requires effort and expertise. Alternatively, researchers often bin species into higher taxa because they are unable to recognize them, or to save money and time. Here we analyse, by simulation and analytical modelling, the combined effects of dose-dependent mortality and taxonomic binning on biodiversity indices for a fictitious community of organisms. We asked (1) how binning species in a sample into higher taxa significantly affects biodiversity measures, and (2) whether dose-dependent mortality effects, alone or in combination with taxonomic uncertainty, are duly captured by classic biodiversity indices. Our study shows that haphazard binning into various taxonomic levels is legitimate and preferable to orderly binning (all taxa binned at the same level), because it provides the best resolution. We further show that binning will regularly obscure statistical detection of biodiversity differences, if only due to scaling of mean and variance. Also, treatment effects in combination with taxonomic uncertainty can introduce estimation biases of at times complex nonlinear and non-intuitive nature under any taxonomic resolution scenario, potentially including relative increases in the biodiversity index when intuitively decreases would be expected. We recommend being specific about the expected qualitative and quantitative effects of any treatment or natural comparison before formulating a hypothesis regarding biodiversity reductions. Our theoretical study should aid in this endeavour.

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Additional indexing

Contributors:2151-3732
Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Physical Sciences > Ecology
Physical Sciences > Nature and Landscape Conservation
Physical Sciences > Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ecology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics, Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law, Nature and Landscape Conservation
Language:English
Date:2017
Deposited On:15 Feb 2018 10:37
Last Modified:21 May 2024 03:43
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:2151-3732
OA Status:Gold
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/21513732.2016.1260638
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)