, Volume 19, Issue 12, pp 3413-3429
Date: 30 Jul 2010

Biotope prioritisation in the Central Apennines (Italy): species rarity and cross-taxon congruence

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Abstract

The conservation status of invertebrates is usually lesser known than that of vertebrates, and strategies to identify biotopes to preserve invertebrate diversity are typically based on a single surrogate taxon, or even on the use of vertebrates as surrogates. Aim of this research is to illustrate a method for biotope prioritisation that can be easily adapted to different animal groups and geographical contexts. A two-step protocol for biotope prioritisation is proposed on the basis of a multidimensional characterisation of species vulnerability. Firstly, species vulnerability is estimated from rarity measures which include geographical range, abundance and biotope specialisation. Then, these values of vulnerability are used to rank biotopes. The method was applied here to the tenebrionid beetles, the butterflies, the birds and the mammals of the Central Apennines, a montane area of high conservation concern for South Europe. This study provides evidence for the importance of including insects in conservation decisions, because vertebrates are poor surrogates for insects. Conservation efforts in the reserves included in the study area are mostly focused on vertebrates, for which woodlands are considered particularly important. However high altitude open biotopes are crucial for both tenebrionids and butterflies, and preservation of such kind of biotopes would be beneficial also for vertebrates. The approach applied here demonstrates that (1) vertebrates are poor surrogates for insects, and (2) measures of species rarity, typically used in vertebrate conservation, can be obtained also for insects, for which a veritable amount of data are hidden in specialised literature and museum collections.