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The use of response measures in meta-analyses of land-use impacts on ecological communities: a review and the way forward

Hekkala, Anne-Maarit, Roberge, Jean-Michel
Biodiversity and conservation 2018 v.27 no.11 pp. 2989-3005
conservation status, forests, functional diversity, land use, meta-analysis, species diversity
Species richness and total abundance are two of the most commonly used response measures in empirical studies of the effects of anthropogenic land-use on biodiversity, in spite of the fact that they are insensitive to changes in a range of community attributes. We evaluated the extent to which meta-analyses about the effects of forest land-use on ecological communities make use of gross species richness, diversity and abundance measures (hereafter low-informative measures) as opposed to more refined response variables conveying a higher degree of conservation-relevant information, e.g., by accounting for compositional or functional changes in the communities (high-informative measures). Nearly one-half of the 221 included meta-analyses were based solely on low-informative measures. The prevalence of low-informative measures was higher for meta-analyses belonging to studies encompassing a broad taxonomic scope and it has increased since 2002. Few differences were detected in the use of response measures among taxonomic groups, although there were indications that some better-known groups tended to be more often studied with high-informative measures. To provide guidance for future work, we synthesized the high-informative measures of biodiversity used in the reviewed studies. For better-informed meta-analyses, we encourage the use of more refined approaches to quantify impacts on communities in addition to species richness and total abundance measures. This may involve, for example, the use of β diversity and functional diversity measures, as well as separate analyses for different ecological groups or conservation status categories.