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Complementarity and the use of indicator groups for reserve selection in Uganda


A major obstacle to conserving tropical biodiversity is the lack of information as to where efforts should be concentrated. One potential solution is to focus on readily assessed indicator groups, whose distribution predicts the overall importance of the biodiversity of candidate areas1,2. Here we test this idea, using the most extensive data set on patterns of diversity assembled so far for any part of the tropics. As in studies of temperate regions2,3,4,5,6,7,8, we found little spatial congruence in the species richness of woody plants, large moths, butterflies, birds and small mammals across 50 Ugandan forests. Despite this lack of congruence, sets of priority forests selected using data on single taxa only often captured species richness in other groups with the same efficiency as using information on all taxa at once. This is because efficient conservation networks incorporate not only species-rich sites, but also those whose biotas best complement those of other areas9,10,11. In Uganda, different taxa exhibit similar biogeography, so priority forests for one taxon collectively represent the important forest types for other taxa as well. Our results highlight the need, when evaluating potential indicators for reserve selection, to consider cross-taxon congruence in complementarity as well as species richness.

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Figure 1: Mean cumulative representation of species across all five groups (woody plants, large moths, butterflies, birds and small mammals).
Figure 2


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We thank our colleagues in Uganda, especially members of the Forest Department field inventory teams, as well as R. Badaza, D. Duli, D. Hafashimana, I. Kapalaga, T.Katende, R. Kityo, E.Mupada, R. Nabanyumya, D. Olet, A. Rodgers, R. Murtland and T. Finch. Wealso thank P. Warren and J. Ward for help with analyses, and T. Birkhead, K. Gaston, J. Lawton, D.Pomeroy and P. Williams for comments on the manuscript. Most of the work was funded by the European Union and the Global Environmental Facility; P.V. was supported through the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and J.S.L. and A.B. by the Darwin Initiative.

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Correspondence to Andrew Balmford.

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Howard, P., Viskanic, P., Davenport, T. et al. Complementarity and the use of indicator groups for reserve selection in Uganda. Nature 394, 472–475 (1998).

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