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Death assemblages of molluscs on St Martin's flats, Isles of Scilly: A surrogate for regional biodiversity?

Warwick, R.M. and Light, J. (2002) Death assemblages of molluscs on St Martin's flats, Isles of Scilly: A surrogate for regional biodiversity? Biodiversity and Conservation, 11 (1). pp. 99-112.

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We test the hypothesis that the biodiversity of the death assemblage of shelled molluscs (gastropods and bivalves) on a single sandflat is representative of the biodiversity of the regional living fauna from the complete spectrum of habitat types, and can therefore be used as a surrogate for the purposes of rapid biodiversity assessment. Two biodiversity indices considered appropriate for such an assessment are average taxonomic distinctness (Δ+) and the variation in taxonomic distinctness (Λ+), which are, respectively, measures of the degree to which the species are taxonomically related to each other (i.e. the average taxonomic spread), and the degree to which taxa are over or under represented (i.e. the evenness of the distribution across the taxonomic tree). In each case, measured values were compared with the regional living species pool using a randomisation test. Collections and identifications of shells were made by both a non-expert in mollusc taxonomy and by taxonomic experts, the latter using microscopic examination of sediment samples as well as simple surface searches for macro-species. In all studies, Δ+ for the gastropods in the death assemblage was fully representative of the regional living fauna, but for bivalves it was significantly lower. This is because most of the bivalves were characteristic of the sandflat habitat, which introduced a bias, whereas post-mortem transport of gastropods, characterising exotic habitats, is more random. For gastropods, in all studies but one, Λ+ was significantly higher than expected from a random sample of the regional species pool, and for bivalves this was the case for all studies, suggesting the over-representation of some taxa and the under-representation of others. For the total shelled molluscan fauna (gastropods + bivalves) all Δ+ values were below, and all Λ+ values above, expectation. Results obtained by experts and a non-expert in mollusc taxonomy did not differ. In general, death assemblages at a single location are only likely to be representative of a wider region if there is randomisation as a result of post-mortem transport processes.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Springer Netherlands
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