How Should Beta-Diversity Inform Biodiversity Conservation?

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Socolar, Jacob B. ; Gilroy, James J. ; Kunin, William E. ; Edwards, David P. (2016)

To design robust protected area networks, accurately measure species losses, or understand the processes that maintain species diversity, conservation science must consider the organization of biodiversity in space. Central is beta-diversity - the component of regional diversity that accumulates from compositional differences between local species assemblages. We review how beta-diversity is impacted by human activities, including farming, selective logging, urbanization, species invasions, overhunting, and climate change. Beta-diversity increases, decreases, or remains unchanged by these impacts, depending on the balance of processes that cause species composition to become more different (biotic heterogenization) or more similar (biotic homogenization) between sites. While maintaining high beta-diversity is not always a desirable conservation outcome, understanding beta-diversity is essential for protecting regional diversity and can directly assist conservation planning. Beta-diversity reveals the spatial scaling of diversity loss.Beta-diversity illuminates mechanisms of regional diversity maintenance.Human activities cause beta-diversity to increase, decrease, or remain unchanged.Conservation significance of beta-diversity shift depends on local diversity dynamics.
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