Abstract: Implementing systematically designed reserve systems is crucial to slowing the global decline of coral reef health and diversity. Yet, the paucity of spatial data for most coral reef taxa often requires conservation planners to design reserve systems based only on a subset of taxonomic groups as surrogates for all other taxa. In terrestrial systems the validity of surrogates for reserve design is established by testing for cross‐taxon congruence (similarities in spatial patterns of species richness), but this concept has rarely been examined in the marine environment. We tested the suitability of taxa as conservation representation surrogates of coral reef species richness across the Indo‐Pacific, based on species lists of fishes, corals, and mollusks from 167 sites. First, we tested the relevance of cross‐taxon congruence patterns to predict these surrogacy patterns. We determined congruence between taxonomic groups by conducting a correlation analysis of dissimilarity values between pairs of sites. We then evaluated how well each taxonomic group represented the other groups in a marine reserve system selected by a greedy reserve‐selection algorithm relative to reserve systems selected by chance. No taxonomic group we examined was a reliable surrogate for the other groups such that site selection based on that group always represented other taxa significantly better than random selection of sites. Sites selected based on hard corals represented the other taxonomic groups in a reserve system worse than randomly selected sites. Although we found high cross‐taxon congruence between fishes and corals and between corals and mollusks, for some regions cross‐taxon congruence was not always a reliable indicator of the ability of one taxonomic group to efficiently represent another in a reserve system. We concluded that in Indo‐Pacific coral reef ecosystems one can only be sure that a target taxon is efficiently represented in a reserve system when data on that taxon are used to select a reserve system.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Dec 1, 2007
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