Maintaining healthy ecosystems is a prerequisite for conserving biodiversity. The complex nature of ecosystems often necessitates the use of indicator taxa to monitor ecosystem health. However, ambiguous selection criteria and the use of inappropriate taxa have brought the utility of indicator taxa under question. This review compiles existing selection criteria from the literature, evaluates inconsistencies among these criteria, and proposes a step-wise selection process. In addition, 100 vertebrate and 32 invertebrate taxa documented in the conservation science literature as indicators of ecosystem health are examined to assess how well they adhere to the referenced criteria. Few vertebrate taxa fulfill multiple criteria, as most are highly mobile generalists that lack established tolerance levels and correlations with ecosystem changes. Most suggested invertebrate taxa also lack correlations to ecosystem changes, but satisfy other selection criteria. However, invertebrate taxa are often suggested at high taxonomic levels, encompassing many species, making it difficult to measure specific attributes, and potentially including many unnecessary and even inappropriate species.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2000
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