Testing the utility of abiotic surrogates for marine habitat mapping at scales relevant to management
Habitat mapping at the scale at which marine protected areas are designed and managed is essential for assessment of, and design for, representation. Most habitat mapping studies rely solely or in part on abiotic surrogates for patterns of biodiversity. The utility of abiotic variables in predicting biological distributions at the local scale (10 s of km) was tested in a remote video survey of macrobenthos in Moreton Bay, Australia. Habitat classifications of the same set of 41 sites based on 6 abiotic variables and abundances of 89 taxa and bioturbation indicators were compared using correlation, regression and ordination analyses. The concepts of false homogeneity (abiotically similar but biologically distinct) and false heterogeneity (abiotically distinct but biologically similar) were defined to describe types of errors associated with using abiotic surrogates to construct habitat maps, and quantified using two separate methods. Overall, the best prediction by abiotic surrogates explained less than 30% of the pattern of biological similarity. Errors of false homogeneity were between 20% and 62%, depending on the methods of estimation. Predictive capability of abiotic surrogates at the taxon level was poor, with only 6% of taxon/surrogate correlations significant. Abiotic variables did not discriminate sufficiently between different soft bottom communities to be a reliable basis for mapping. These results have implications for the widespread use of abiotic surrogates in marine habitat mapping to plan for, or assess, representation in marine protected areas. Little confidence can be placed in marine habitat classifications based solely or largely on abiotic surrogates without calibration by rigorous biological surveys at the appropriate scale. Therefore, it is questionable whether marine protected areas designed on this basis can have measurable benefits for conservation.
© 2004 Elsevier : Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher : This journal is available online