The effectiveness of surrogate taxa to conserve freshwater biodiversity

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Establishing protected areas has long been an effective conservation strategy and is often based on readily surveyed species. The potential of any freshwater taxa to be a surrogate for other aquatic groups has not been explored fully. We compiled occurrence data on 72 species of freshwater fishes, amphibians, mussels, and aquatic reptiles for the Great Plains, Wyoming (U.S.A.). We used hierarchical Bayesian multispecies mixture models and MaxEnt models to describe species’ distributions and the program Zonation to identify areas of conservation priority for each aquatic group. The landscape-scale factors that best characterized aquatic species’ distributions differed among groups. There was low agreement and congruence among taxa-specific conservation priorities (<20%), meaning no surrogate priority areas would include or protect the best habitats of other aquatic taxa. Common, wideranging aquatic species were included in taxa-specific priority areas, but rare freshwater species were not included. Thus, the development of conservation priorities based on a single freshwater aquatic group would not protect all species in the other aquatic groups.




Stewart, D. R., Underwood, Z. E., Rahel, F. J., & Walters, A. W. (2018). The effectiveness of surrogate taxa to conserve freshwater biodiversity. Conservation Biology, 32(1), 183–194.

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