Aim: Declining biodiversity across ecosystems and myriad human pressures necessitate high-level regional assessments for effective management. Evaluation of biodiversity patterns and stressor accumulation through beta diversity and cumulative effect analyses are two key methods for management prioritization. This study links these concepts to develop a novel cumulative effect metric based on beta diversity responses.
Location: Fraser River basin, British Columbia, Canada.
Methods: Multi-Site Generalized Dissimilarity Models were used to evaluate non-linear relationships between fish species compositional differences (ζn, number of shared species across any number of watersheds compared) and human pressure, environmental, and geospatial differences among all watersheds and within low, mid-, and high elevation clusters. A cumulative effect metric was calculated as the sum of response values generated by the model for each human pressure variable specific to each watershed, when evaluated for ζ2 (equivalent to pairwise beta diversity). This metric was tested against the Local Contribution of each watershed to Beta Diversity to determine whether watersheds with unique communities had low cumulative effects and are therefore candidates for conservation, and conversely, whether watersheds with non-distinctive communities had high cumulative effects and warrant restoration. Species Contributions to Beta Diversity were also assessed across the basin.
Results: Zeta diversity across low elevation watersheds indicated stronger filtering by human pressures than mid- and high elevations, which showed more stochastic community assembly. The relative importance and response to human pressures varied based on the diversity component (i.e., total diversity including compositional nestedness vs. turnover) and order of zeta (number of watersheds compared). Cumulative effects were negatively related to community uniqueness, supporting the use of these metrics for developing management priorities.
Main Conclusions: This assessment contributes to biodiversity conservation efforts by identifying important watersheds, species, and human pressures to manage, as well as providing a cumulative effect metric directly based on biodiversity responses.
Please see Iacarella 2022, Diversity and Distributions for detailed methods.
Please see README file for details of each dataset.