The use of range size to assess risks to biodiversity from stochastic threats

Murray, Nicholas J., Keith, David A., Bland, Lucie M., Nicholson, Emily, Regan, Tracey J., Rodríguez, Jon Paul, and Bedward, Michael (2017) The use of range size to assess risks to biodiversity from stochastic threats. Diversity and Distributions, 23 (5). pp. 474-483.

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Abstract

Aim: Stochastic threats such as disease outbreak, pollution events, fire, tsunami and drought can cause rapid species extinction and ecosystem collapse. The ability of a species or ecosystem to persist after a stochastic threat is strongly related to the extent and spatial pattern of its geographical distribution. Consequently, protocols for assessing risks to biodiversity typically include geographic range size criteria for assessing risks from stochastic threats. However, owing in part to the rarity of such events in nature, the metrics for assessing risk categories have never been tested. In this study, we investigate the performance of alternative range size metrics, including the two most widely used, extent of occurrence (EOO) and area of occupancy (AOO), as predictors of ecosystem collapse in landscapes subject to stochastic threats. Methods: We developed a spatially explicit stochastic simulation model to investigate the impacts of four threat types on a dataset of 1350 simulated geographic distributions of varying pattern and size. We empirically estimated collapse probability in response to each threat type and evaluated the ability of a set of spatial predictors to predict risk. Results: The probability of ecosystem collapse increased rapidly as range size declined. While AOO and EOO were the most important predictors of collapse risk for the three spatially explicit threats included in our model (circle, swipe and cluster), core area, patch density and mean patch size were better predictors for edge effect threats. Main conclusions: Our study is the first to quantitatively assess the range size metrics employed in biodiversity risk assessment protocols. We show that the current methods for measuring range size are the best spatial metrics for estimating risks from stochastic threats. Our simulation framework delivers an objective assessment of the performance of hitherto untested but widely used measures of geographic range size for risk assessment.

Item ID: 60295
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1472-4642
Keywords: area of occupancy, extent of occurrence, geographic distribution, IUCN Red List of Ecosystems, IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, risk assessment
Copyright Information: © 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), MAVA Foundation, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources
Projects and Grants: ARC Linkage grant 130100435
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2019 06:37
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050104 Landscape Ecology @ 10%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050204 Environmental Impact Assessment @ 40%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960501 Ecosystem Assessment and Management at Regional or Larger Scales @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960805 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity at Regional or Larger Scales @ 50%
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