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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Applying Species Diversity Theory to Land Management

Authors
item Bestelmeyer, Brandon
item Miller, James - UNIV OF WISCONSIN
item Wiens, John - THE NATURE CONSERVANCY

Submitted to: Ecological Applications
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 7, 2003
Publication Date: December 1, 2003
Citation: BESTELMEYER, B.T., MILLER, J.R., WIENS, J.A. APPLYING SPECIES DIVERSITY THEORY TO LAND MANAGEMENT. ECOLOGICAL APPLICATIONS. 2003. V. 13(6). P. 1750-1761.

Interpretive Summary: The decisions applied by land managers affect many species simultaneously (biodiversity). While there is a large body of work addressing the controls of species distribution and diversity at different scales, this work has not been synthesized in such a way as to be useful in guiding land management decisions. We present a framework that simplifies many of the ideas in the literature and relates them to one another. Specifically, managers need to understand how the characteristics of the organisms of concern (dispersal ability and niche breadth) relate to habitat availability, the distribution of habitat and non-habitat in the landscape, and the geographic range of habitat. The framework suggests that, in each case, managers should address the following general questions: 1) which groups of organisms will be considered, 2) how does the scale at which these organisms make a living relate to the scales of management, 3) what processes are likely to be important determinants of species distribution at management scales, and 4) how will the proposed management activities interact with these processes? We emphasize the value of considering explanations in a pluralistic and case-specific way, rather than seeking singular explanations or "general laws."

Technical Abstract: Many theories and hypotheses have been proposed to explain patterns of species diversity and distribution/abundance at particular scales, but they are often unclear on how these ideas relate or how they apply across multiple scales. It has been difficult to use diversity theory to understand patterns at the intermediate scales at which biodiversity is managed. Here, we present a framework for studying diversity based on the ecological processes influencing distribution of organisms at different scales. We use this framework to organize diversity theories into several classes. The framework highlights that processes contributing to diversity patterns depend on the characteristics of the taxa considered, the spatial scales at which organisms respond to environment, and the scales and other characteristics of the particular environments in which investigators hope to explain variation in diversity. At the scales traditionally considered by land managers and conservation biologists, biodiversity is determined b the interactions among habitat occupancy, landscape distribution, and geographic range for a variety of taxa. The framework suggests that, in each case, managers should address the following general questions: 1) which groups of organisms will be considered, 2) how do their domains of scale relate to the land area under consideration, 3) what processes are likely to be important determinants of species distribution at management scales, and 4) how will the proposed management activities interact with these processes? We emphasize the value of considering species diversity theories in a pluralistic and case-specific way, rather than seeking singular explanations or "general laws" explaining diversity variations.

Last Modified: 9/2/2014
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