Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 1033–1049 | Cite as

Polychaetes as surrogates for marine biodiversity: lower taxonomic resolution and indicator groups

  • Frode Olsgard
  • Torleiv Brattegard
  • Torleif Holthe


Due to conservation needs, reliable rapid-assessment methods for mapping of biodiversity are needed. One approach is to use surrogates, i.e. quantities that correlate strongly with the number of species, but are easier to obtain. The purpose of this paper is to test two polychaete surrogates, one for higher taxa and one for indicator groups, that will facilitate prediction of species richness in marine soft-bottom communities. Soft sediment is an important habitat which covers most of the ocean bottom. Data on polychaetes from the North Atlantic were used since polychaetes are often numerically dominant in the benthic assemblages, both with regard to the number of species and their abundance. In the polychaete assemblages along the Norwegian coast, richness at the genus, family and order level were significantly, linearly correlated to total species richness (r≥ 0.92). Polychaetes in the order Terebellida were found to be a good indicator of polychaete species richness and to a lesser extent also of whole benthic assemblages. The group Terebellida is potentially well suited as an indicator group, since it contains long-lived, large species that are easy to sort from the sediment and it is well defined taxonomically. Although promising as proxies for species richness in marine biodiversity studies, the use of lower taxonomic resolution and indicator groups requires further investigations in more local areas where there are conservation issues.

Biodiversity Indicators Polychaetes Rapid assessment Species richness Surrogates Taxonomic resolution 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Beattie A.J. and Oliver I. 1994. Taxonomic minimalism. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 9: 488–490.Google Scholar
  2. Beccaloni G.W. and Gaston K.J. 1995. Predicting the species richness of neotropical forest butterflies - Ithomiinae (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae) as indicators. Biological Conservation 71: 77–86.Google Scholar
  3. Belbin L. 1993. Environmental representativeness - regional partitioning and reserve selection. Biological Conservation 66: 223–230.Google Scholar
  4. Birks H.J.B. 1996. Statistical approaches to interpreting diversity patterns in the Norwegian mountain flora. Ecography 19: 332–340.Google Scholar
  5. Brattegard T. and Holthe T. 1997. Distribution of Marine, Benthic Macro-Organisms in Norway. Directorate for Nature Management, Trondheim, Norway.Google Scholar
  6. Colwell R.K. and Coddington J.A. 1994. Estimating terrestrial biodiversity through extrapolation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B - Biological Sciences 345: 101–118.Google Scholar
  7. Ehrlich P.R. 1992. Population biology of checkerspot butterflies and the preservation of global biodiversity. Oikos 63: 6–12.Google Scholar
  8. Faith D.P. and Walker P.A. 1996. Environmental diversity: on the best-possible use of surrogate data for assessing the relative biodiversity of sets of areas. Biodiversity and Conservation 5: 399–415.Google Scholar
  9. Fauchald K. and Jumars P.A. 1979. The diet of worms: a study of polychaete feeding guilds. Oceanography and Marine Biological Annual Review 17: 193–284.Google Scholar
  10. Ferraro S.P. and Cole F.A. 1995. Taxonomic level sufficient for assessing pollution impacts on the southern California Bight macrobenthos - revisited. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 14: 1031–1040.Google Scholar
  11. Gaston K.J. 1994. Biodiversity measurement. Progress in Physical Geography 18: 565–574.Google Scholar
  12. Gaston K.J. 1996. Species richness: measure and measurement. In: Gaston K.J. (ed.), Biodiversity: A Biology of Numbers and Difference. Blackwell Science, Oxford, UK, pp. 77–113.Google Scholar
  13. Gaston K.J. 2000. Biodiversity: higher taxon richness. Progress in Physical Geography 24: 117–127.Google Scholar
  14. Gaston K.J. and Williams P.H. 1993. Mapping the world's species - the highest taxon approach. Biodiversity Letters 1: 2–8.Google Scholar
  15. Gee J.M. and Warwick R.M. 1996. A study of global biodiversity patterns in the marine motile fauna of hard substrata. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 76: 177–184.Google Scholar
  16. Gray J.S. 1997. Marine biodiversity: patterns, threats and conservation needs. Biodiversity and Conservation 6: 153–175.Google Scholar
  17. Gray J.S., Clarke K.R., Warwick R.M. and Hobbs G. 1990. Detection of initial effects of pollution on marine benthos: an example from the Ekofisk and Eldfisk oilfields, North Sea. Marine Ecology Progress Series 66: 285–299.Google Scholar
  18. Hartmann-Schröder G. 1996. Annelida, Borstenwürmer, Polychaeta. Gustav Fisher Verlag, Jena, Germany. Holthe T. 1978. The zoogeography of the Terebollomorpha (Polychaeta) of the northern European waters. Sarsia 63: 191–198.Google Scholar
  19. Holthe T. 1986. Polychaeta Terebellomorpha. Marine Invertebrates of Scandinavia 7: 1–194.Google Scholar
  20. Howson C.M. 1987. Species Directory to British Marine Fauna and Flora. Marine Conservation Society, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, UK.Google Scholar
  21. Hutchings P. 1998. Biodiversity and functioning of polychaetes in benthic sediments. Biodiversity and Conservation 7: 1133–1145.Google Scholar
  22. Irish K.E. and Norse E.A. 1996. Scant emphasis on marine biodiversity. Conservation Biology 10: 680.Google Scholar
  23. Mackie A.S.Y., Oliver P.G. and Rees I.S. 1995. Benthic Biodiversity in the southern Irish Sea. Studies in Marine Biodiversity and Systematics from the National Museum of Wales. BIOMÔR Reports No. 1. National Museums & Galleries of Wales, Cardiff, Wales, UK.Google Scholar
  24. Mackie A.S.Y., Parmiter C. and Tong L.K.Y. 1997. Distribution and diversity of Polychaeta in the southern Irish Sea. Bulletin of Marine Science 60: 467–481.Google Scholar
  25. May R.M. 1990. Taxonomy as destiny. Nature 347: 129–130.Google Scholar
  26. May R.M. 1994. Biological diversity - differences between land and sea. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B - Biological Sciences 343: 105–111.Google Scholar
  27. Noss R.F. 1990. Indicators for monitoring biodiversity: a hierarchical approach. Conservation Biology 4: 355–364.Google Scholar
  28. Olsgård F. 1995. Overvaking av forurensingssituasjonen i indre Oslofjord. Undersøkelser av bløtbunnsfauna 1993. SFT-rapport 622/95, pp. 1–106.Google Scholar
  29. Olsgard F. and Somerfield P.J. 2000. Surrogates in marine benthic investigations - which taxonomic unit to target? Journal of Aquatic Ecosystem Stress and Recovery 42: 25–42.Google Scholar
  30. Olsgard F., Somerfield P.J. and Carr M.R. 1997. Relationships between taxonomic resolution and data transformations in analyses of a macrobenthic community along an established pollution gradient. Marine Ecology Progress Series 149: 173–181.Google Scholar
  31. Olsgard F., Somerfield P.J. and Carr M.R. 1998. Relationships between taxonomic resolution, macrobenthic community patterns and disturbance. Marine Ecology Progress Series 172: 25–36.Google Scholar
  32. Pearson D.L. 1994. Selecting indicator taxa for the quantitative assessment of biodiversity. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B - Biological Sciences 345: 75–79.Google Scholar
  33. Pocklington P. and Wells P.G. 1992. Polychaetes. Key taxa for marine environmental quality monitoring. Marine Pollution Bulletin 24: 593–598.Google Scholar
  34. Prendergast J.R. and Eversham B.C. 1997. Species richness covariance in higher taxa: empirical tests of the biodiversity indicator concept. Ecography 20: 210–216.Google Scholar
  35. Prendergast J.R., Quinn R.M., Lawton J.H., Eversham B.C. and Gibbons D.W. 1993. Rare species, the coincidence of diversity hotspots and conservation strategies. Nature 365: 335–337.Google Scholar
  36. Ray G.C. and Grassle J.F. 1991. Marine biological diversity. Bioscience 41: 453–461.Google Scholar
  37. Roy K., Jablonski D. and Valentine J.W. 1996. Higher taxa in biodiversity studies: patterns from eastern Pacific marine molluscs. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B - Biological Sciences 351: 1605–1613.Google Scholar
  38. Sepkoski J.J. 1991. Diversity in the Phanerozoic oceans: a partisan review. In: Dudley E.C. (ed.), The Unity of Evolutionary Biology. Proceedings of the Fourth International Congress of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology. Diosorides Press, Portland, Oregon, pp. 210–236.Google Scholar
  39. Somerfield P.J. and Clarke K.R. 1995. Taxonomic levels, in marine community studies, revisited. Marine Ecology Progress Series 127: 113–119.Google Scholar
  40. Valentine J.W. 1970. How many marine fossil species? A new approximation. Journal of Paleontology 44: 410–415.Google Scholar
  41. Vanderklift M.A., Ward T.J. and Jacoby C.A. 1996. Effect of reducing taxonomic resolution on ordinations to detect pollution-induced gradients in macrobenthic infaunal assemblages. Marine Ecology Progress Series 136: 137–145.Google Scholar
  42. Vanderklift M.A., Ward T.J. and Phillips J.C. 1998. Use of assemblages derived from different taxonomic levels to select areas for conserving marine biodiversity. Biological Conservation 86: 307–315.Google Scholar
  43. Vane-Wright R.I., Humphries C.J. and Williams P.H. 1991. What to protect? Systematics and the agony of choice. Biological Conservation 55: 235–254.Google Scholar
  44. Ward T.J., Kenchington R.A., Faith D.P. and Margules C.R. 1998. Marine BioRap Guidelines: Rapid Assessment of Marine Biological Diversity. CSIRO, Perth, Australia.Google Scholar
  45. Ward T.J., Vanderklift M.A., Nicholls A.O. and Kenchington R.A. 1999. Selecting marine reserves using habitats and species assemblages as surrogates for biological diversity. Ecological Applications 9: 691–698.Google Scholar
  46. Warwick R.M. 1988. Analysis of community attributes of the macrobenthos of Frierfjord /Langesundfjord at taxonomic levels higher than species. Marine Ecology Progress Series 46: 167–170.Google Scholar
  47. Williams P.H. and Gaston K.J. 1994. Measuring more of biodiversity - can higher-taxon richness predict wholesale species richness? Biological Conservation 67: 211–217.Google Scholar
  48. Williams P.H., Gaston K.J. and Humphries C.J. 1997. Mapping biodiversity value worldwide: combining higher-taxon richness from different groups. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B - Biological Sciences 264: 141–148.Google Scholar
  49. Woodward L. 1987. Climate and Plant Distribution. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frode Olsgard
  • Torleiv Brattegard
  • Torleif Holthe

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations