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Selecting focal species as surrogates for imperiled species using relative sensitivities derived from occupancy analysis

Silvano, Amy L., Guyer, Craig, Steury, Todd D., Grand, James B.
Ecological indicators 2017 v.73 pp. 302-311
habitat conservation, habitats, monitoring, prediction, rare species
Most imperiled species are rare or elusive and difficult to detect, which makes gathering data to estimate their response to habitat restoration a challenge. We used a repeatable, systematic method for selecting focal species using relative sensitivities derived from occupancy analysis. Our objective was to select suites of focal species that would be useful as surrogates when predicting effects of restoration of habitat characteristics preferred by imperiled species. We developed 27 habitat profiles that represent general habitat relationships for 118 imperiled species. We identified 23 regularly encountered species that were sensitive to important aspects of those profiles. We validated our approach by examining the correlation between estimated probabilities of occupancy for species of concern and focal species selected using our method. Occupancy rates of focal species were more related to occupancy rates of imperiled species when they were sensitive to more of the parameters appearing in profiles of imperiled species. We suggest that this approach can be an effective means of predicting responses by imperiled species to proposed management actions. However, adequate monitoring will be required to determine the effectiveness of using focal species to guide management actions.