Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 1117–1130 | Cite as

Annelids, arthropods or molluscs are suitable as surrogate taxa for selecting conservation reserves in estuaries

  • Mohammad Reza Shokri
  • William Gladstone
  • Andrew Kepert
Original Paper


The urgent need to conserve aquatic biodiversity and the lack of spatial data on biodiversity has motivated conservation planners and researchers to search for more readily obtainable information that could be used as proxies or surrogates. The surrogate taxon approach shows promise in some aquatic environments (e.g. intertidal) but not others (e.g. coral reefs, temperate rocky reefs). Estuaries are transitional environments at the land–sea junction with a unique biodiversity, but are the most threatened of aquatic environments because of high levels of human use. The comparatively small numbers of conservation reserves means that estuarine biodiversity is poorly protected. Selecting additional conservation reserves within estuaries would be facilitated by the identification of a suitable surrogate that could be used in conservation planning. In one estuary in Southeast Australia, we evaluated separately the effectiveness of annelids, arthropods, and molluscs as surrogates for predicting the species richness, abundance, assemblage variation, and summed irreplaceability of other species and for coincidentally representing other species in networks of conservation reserves selected for each surrogate. Spatial patterns in the species richness and assemblage variation (but not summed irreplaceability) of each surrogate were significantly correlated with the spatial patterns of other species. The total abundance of annelids and the total abundance of arthropods were each significantly correlated with the total abundances of other species. Networks of conservation reserves selected to represent each surrogate performed significantly better than random selection in representing other species. The greatest number of non-surrogate species was coincidentally included in reserves selected for the group of mollusc species. We conclude that annelids and arthropods are effective surrogate taxa for identifying spatial variation in several measures of conservation value (species richness, abundance, assemblage variation) in estuaries. We also conclude that spatial data on annelids, arthropods or molluscs can be used to select networks of conservation reserves in estuaries. The demonstrated effectiveness of these surrogates should facilitate future conservation planning within estuaries.


Coarse-filter conservation Cross-taxon congruence Estuarine protected area Irreplaceability Reserve selection 



This study was supported by funding from the University of Newcastle and Gosford City Council. Thanks to Dr. P. Freewater at Gosford City Council. Thanks to K. O’Neill and G. Courtenay for their assistance in the field sampling and laboratory works. This project involved a large amount of species identification and this would not have been possible without the generous advice, teaching, and encouragement of Dr. P. Hutchings (Australian Museum). A large number of the species were checked for identification by Dr. Hutchings. The additional assistance at the Australian Museum provided by R. Springthorpe, I. Loch, W. Ponder, and A. Murray, was greatly appreciated. Thanks to two anonymous referees for critical review of an earlier version of this manuscript. The senior author was supported by an IPRS scholarship from the University of Newcastle. Macroinvertebrates were collected in compliance with permits issued by NSW Fisheries.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohammad Reza Shokri
    • 1
    • 2
  • William Gladstone
    • 1
  • Andrew Kepert
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Environmental and Life SciencesUniversity of Newcastle (Ourimbah Campus)OurimbahAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Biological SciencesShahid Beheshti UniversityTehranIslamic Republic of Iran
  3. 3.School of Mathematics and Physical SciencesUniversity of Newcastle (Ourimbah Campus)OurimbahAustralia

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