Mechanisms underlying the bioindicator notion: Spatial association between individual sexual performance and community diversity

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The bioindicator notion is an appealing concept that has received more support in applied than in basic ecology, mostly due to the difficulty in deriving general ecological rules applicable to all target organisms. However, recognizing the mechanisms that determine the association between a particular species and the well-being of many other species is important for understanding the functioning of ecosystems and the relationship among different biological levels. We examined here the processes at the individual level that cause an association between species performance and biodiversity value, by analyzing attributes that can be studied in a variety of animals with sexual reproduction, namely breeding site selection and condition-dependent sexual signals. Our study model was the Capercaillie, an indicator of forest functioning and diversity, and the associated bird community, used here as a surrogate of broader forest biodiversity. At a regional scale Capercaillie occurrence was not associated with the most diverse forest patches, but at the scale of male spring territories the sexual display grounds (arenas) were located in the oldest and less disturbed forest portions, which also hosted the richest local bird communities. Social mechanisms and conspecific cueing likely concurred with habitat-driven processes in determining the long-term persistence of traditional display grounds, which were appealing to many other species because of their structural composition. Characteristics of male vocal display that honestly advertize male quality (low frequencies and rapid song rates) were significantly correlated with high diversity values, resulting in a spatial association between individual and community performances. Costly or risky activities such as reproductive or social behaviors, which more than other attributes match gradients in habitat quality, are therefore contributing to functionally connect individuals with ecosystem health. © 2011 Laiolo et al.




Laiolo, P., Bañuelos, M. J., Blanco-Fontao, B., García, M., & Gutiérrez, G. (2011). Mechanisms underlying the bioindicator notion: Spatial association between individual sexual performance and community diversity. PLoS ONE, 6(7).

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