Are we selecting appropriate metrics to assess human impacts on biodiversity?

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Basic and Applied Ecology, ISSN: 1439-1791, Vol: 21, Page: 85-93

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Victor Hugo Fonseca Oliveira; Jos Barlow; Toby Gardner; Julio Louzada
Elsevier BV
Agricultural and Biological Sciences
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article description
Biased and subjective choices of metrics to be used in ecological studies could lead researchers to reach misleading conclusions regarding patterns of biodiversity response to human disturbances. Nevertheless, little attention has been given to the choices of variables in the majority of studies published to date. Here, we used the literature concerning land use change effects on dung beetles to assess the extent to which variables commonly employed in ecological studies correspond to those deemed to be most important by researchers of the same studies. Specifically, we examined both biodiversity (response) and environmental (explanatory) metrics from a comprehensive literature review and compared their use with their relative importance, according to a survey of the authors of the studies. Our results highlight marked disparities between researchers opinion expressed in our survey and their choice of variables in published papers. We suggest that these disparities are due to the high costs of sampling and processing some variables, logistical constraints and different perceptions of importance amongst researchers. We highlight the importance of these issues for our understanding of the biodiversity consequences of land use change, and highlight some recommendations for alleviating this issue.