A multifaceted appraisal of a large-scale, multi-taxon biodiversity monitoring initiative

  • Author / Creator
    Haughland, Diane L
  • Conservationists have long debated how best to measure and conserve biodiversity. While many scientists called for long-term, large-scale ecological monitoring in the 1990's, the concurrent increased appreciation of statistical power and detectability-related sampling error meant that many programs endeavoring to be more inclusive were contentious. The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) provided a unique opportunity to assess a large-scale, long-term, systematic biodiversity monitoring program, employing largely undergraduate field technicians. Given these design attributes, I examined the sampling error and data quality in select components of ABMI, largely within the boreal forest ecozone of Alberta. Components examined included the collection of bryophyte field samples, identification of lichen samples in the laboratory, and the resultant statistical power and ecological value of these data for assessing changes in multiple taxa. In the first comprehensive assessment of detectability in bryophytes, I showed that while detection error was high for individual bryophyte species, multivariate community composition was highly repeatable between surveys of the same site by different technicians. With quality control and a week of training, technicians accurately detected and identified common lichen species in the laboratory, mitigating some of the field detection error. Preliminary data suggest that ABMI will have high statistical power to detect -3% annual declines in the occurrence of individual species at the scale of natural regions and provincially within 20 years, but smaller-scale assessments will require longer time frames or metrics more robust to detection error such as community composition. To assess the value of monitoring multiple assemblages, I examined the congruence and sensitivity to natural and anthropogenic gradients of soil oribatid mites, breeding birds, bryophytes, and vascular plants. I demonstrated that mites and vascular plants were the most sensitive and complementary set of assemblages, but if funding limited field surveys to one taxon, vascular plants provided the greatest sensitivity to multiple gradients. ABMI provides great ecological value and has been adopted by provincial and federal monitoring agencies, but it remains unclear whether better data will result in better biodiversity conservation given the current economic climate.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2012
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Bayne, Erin (Biological Sciences)
    • Nielsen, Scott (Renewable Resources)
    • Proctor, Heather (Biological Sciences)
    • Manley, Patricia (United States Forest Service)