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Evaluation of empirical presence data versus expert opinions to assess habitat suitability and landscape permeability – a case study of six butterfly species in Saxony, Germany

Arfan, Muhammad (2013) BION24 20121
Degree Projects in Biology
Abstract
Evaluation of information for species conservation planning

Biodiversity conservation has become a core issue in research and policy due to recognition of the magnitude of anthropogenic and environmental threats. There is an urgent need to expand current reserve networks and to improve their effectiveness in protecting species and habitats. To facilitate the spatial selection of areas for conservation in a transparent way, a number of methods have been developed. However, these methods are based on comprehensive biological databases of species occurrence, distribution, and abundance. Additionally, these methods usually do not address landscape permeability, an equally important aspect affecting the survival of species in patchy... (More)
Evaluation of information for species conservation planning

Biodiversity conservation has become a core issue in research and policy due to recognition of the magnitude of anthropogenic and environmental threats. There is an urgent need to expand current reserve networks and to improve their effectiveness in protecting species and habitats. To facilitate the spatial selection of areas for conservation in a transparent way, a number of methods have been developed. However, these methods are based on comprehensive biological databases of species occurrence, distribution, and abundance. Additionally, these methods usually do not address landscape permeability, an equally important aspect affecting the survival of species in patchy landscapes. One means to overcome gaps in knowledge is to rely on expert knowledge in order to gain better understanding of species-habitat relationships.

This study was conducted to investigate, how empirical presence data and expert opinions about habitat suitability and landscape permeability perform with respect to identify the ecological and spatial needs of six butterfly species in the Federal State of Saxony, Germany. The main aim was to develop maps based on habitat suitability or landscape permeability, to compare the outcomes between analyses based on empirical presence data versus expert opinion, to identify matches and mismatches, and to assess what can be learned from each. Species presence records from 2000 to 2008 were used combined with a land-use map of Saxony based on aerial photos taken in 2005. In parallel, six expert responses were used to evaluate the 40 land-use types occurring in the map, in terms of both suitability and permeability for the six species. Empirical presence data was translated into habitat suitability values using IEI (Ivlev’s Electivity Index).

The study revealed that empirical presence data produced more informative maps and suitability information than expert opinions for all six butterfly species. First, habitat suitability maps for all six species based on empirical-presence data showed a more distinct spatial pattern of suitable area compared to expert-based. Secondly, expert-based maps showed poor spatial relation between species actual presence and nearby suitable habitats. Thirdly, expert evaluations varied broadly between experts with hardly any clear patterns regarding habitat suitability and finally, presence-based results and existing literature information provided much better matching compare to expert opinions on suitability. However, when communicated with experts, mismatches between expert opinions and empirical presence-based suitability evaluations were explained by the experts as originating from wrong evaluation by the presence-based analysis. Further, a medium to high correlation was observed between suitability and permeability based on expert opinions for all six species. Based on these results, I suggest using an empirical presences data in combination with the expert opinions about habitat suitability. Moreover, a clear understanding about both habitat suitability and landscape permeability can help us to develop a sensible conservation policy.

Advisor: Guy Pe’er and Ola Olsson
Master´s Degree Project 45 credits in Nature Conservation 2013
Department of Biology, Lund University (Less)
Abstract
Abstract

Failures in achieving the 2010 goals of slowing down or halting the loss of biodiversity, and the setting of new biodiversity targets set for 2020, stress an urgent need to expand current reserve networks and to improve their effectiveness in protecting species and habitats. Habitat suitability models, and derived maps from them, are among the broadest used tools for identifying the ecological and spatial needs of species. However, obtaining reliable and standardized data to parameterize such models is difficult. Additionally, habitat suitability models usually do not address landscape permeability, an equally important aspect affecting the survival of species in patchy landscapes. One means to overcome gaps in knowledge is to... (More)
Abstract

Failures in achieving the 2010 goals of slowing down or halting the loss of biodiversity, and the setting of new biodiversity targets set for 2020, stress an urgent need to expand current reserve networks and to improve their effectiveness in protecting species and habitats. Habitat suitability models, and derived maps from them, are among the broadest used tools for identifying the ecological and spatial needs of species. However, obtaining reliable and standardized data to parameterize such models is difficult. Additionally, habitat suitability models usually do not address landscape permeability, an equally important aspect affecting the survival of species in patchy landscapes. One means to overcome gaps in knowledge is to rely on expert knowledge in order to gain better understanding of species-habitat relationships. Here, I explored the question how presence data and expert opinions perform with respect to identifying the ecological and spatial needs of six butterfly species in the Federal State of Saxony, Germany. Species presence records from 2000 to 2008 were used combined with a land-use map of Saxony based on aerial photos taken in 2005. In parallel, six expert responses were used to evaluate the 40 land-use types occurring in the map, in terms of both suitability and permeability for the six species. Presence data was translated into suitability through Ivlev’s electivity indices (IEI), and both suitability measures (from IEI and experts) were then converted into maps. Visual analysis of suitability maps based on IEI showed a more distinct spatial pattern of suitable area compared to expert-based maps. Also, suitability ranking based on presence data matched better with literature-based information, and species presence-points were spatially closer compared to expert-based data ranking and maps. However, in case of mismatches between expert and presence-based evaluations, separate experts identified the expert evaluation as better and considered IEI calculations as wrong. I found a medium to high correlation between habitat suitability and landscape permeability based on expert opinions for all six species. These results indicate that integration of species-presence data and expert knowledge about species and their specific habitat structure could enhance our capabilities to understand and potentially map suitability. Further, information about habitat suitability in combination with landscape permeability can advance separation between these two elements, identify knowledge gaps, and improve the incorporation of such data into systematic conservation planning of species. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Arfan, Muhammad
supervisor
organization
course
BION24 20121
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
language
English
id
4057375
date added to LUP
2013-09-20 11:07:12
date last changed
2013-09-20 11:09:12
@misc{4057375,
  abstract     = {Abstract

Failures in achieving the 2010 goals of slowing down or halting the loss of biodiversity, and the setting of new biodiversity targets set for 2020, stress an urgent need to expand current reserve networks and to improve their effectiveness in protecting species and habitats. Habitat suitability models, and derived maps from them, are among the broadest used tools for identifying the ecological and spatial needs of species. However, obtaining reliable and standardized data to parameterize such models is difficult. Additionally, habitat suitability models usually do not address landscape permeability, an equally important aspect affecting the survival of species in patchy landscapes. One means to overcome gaps in knowledge is to rely on expert knowledge in order to gain better understanding of species-habitat relationships. Here, I explored the question how presence data and expert opinions perform with respect to identifying the ecological and spatial needs of six butterfly species in the Federal State of Saxony, Germany. Species presence records from 2000 to 2008 were used combined with a land-use map of Saxony based on aerial photos taken in 2005. In parallel, six expert responses were used to evaluate the 40 land-use types occurring in the map, in terms of both suitability and permeability for the six species. Presence data was translated into suitability through Ivlev’s electivity indices (IEI), and both suitability measures (from IEI and experts) were then converted into maps. Visual analysis of suitability maps based on IEI showed a more distinct spatial pattern of suitable area compared to expert-based maps. Also, suitability ranking based on presence data matched better with literature-based information, and species presence-points were spatially closer compared to expert-based data ranking and maps. However, in case of mismatches between expert and presence-based evaluations, separate experts identified the expert evaluation as better and considered IEI calculations as wrong. I found a medium to high correlation between habitat suitability and landscape permeability based on expert opinions for all six species. These results indicate that integration of species-presence data and expert knowledge about species and their specific habitat structure could enhance our capabilities to understand and potentially map suitability. Further, information about habitat suitability in combination with landscape permeability can advance separation between these two elements, identify knowledge gaps, and improve the incorporation of such data into systematic conservation planning of species.},
  author       = {Arfan, Muhammad},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Evaluation of empirical presence data versus expert opinions to assess habitat suitability and landscape permeability – a case study of six butterfly species in Saxony, Germany},
  year         = {2013},
}