Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 833–840 | Cite as

A comparative measure of biodiversity based on species composition

  • Michael D. Jennings
  • Jonathan Hoekstra
  • Jonathan Higgins
  • Timothy Boucher
Original Paper


In conservation planning, species richness and species endemism are the most often used metrics for describing the biodiversity importance of areas. However, when it comes to prioritizing regions for conservation actions these measures alone are insufficient because they do not reveal how similar or different the actual composition of species may be from one area to another. For comparative analysis an additional useful metric would be one that indicates the degree to which the species assemblage in one area is also represented in—or is distinct from—species assemblages of other areas. Here we describe a method for quantifying the compositional representativeness of species assemblages among geographic regions. The method generates asymmetric pairwise similarity coefficients that are then used to calculate separate measures for the representativeness and the distinctiveness of species assemblages in the regions being compared. We demonstrate the method by comparing fish communities among freshwater ecoregions of the Mississippi Basin, and then among smaller hydrological units within two individual freshwater ecoregions. At both scales of analysis, our measures of representativeness and distinctiveness reveal patterns of fish species composition that differ from patterns of species richness. This information can enhance conservation planning processes by ensuring that priority-setting explicitly consider the most representative and distinctive species assemblages.


Biodiversity Conservation Representation Species composition Compositional representativeness 



Thanks to Larry Master of NatureServe for providing the fish data and to Peter Kareiva, Jennifer Molnar, Carmen Revenga, and one anonymous reviewer for their discussion, insights and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael D. Jennings
    • 1
  • Jonathan Hoekstra
    • 2
  • Jonathan Higgins
    • 3
  • Timothy Boucher
    • 4
  1. 1.The Nature Conservancy, Conservation Science GroupMoscowUSA
  2. 2.The Nature Conservancy, Conservation Science GroupSeattleUSA
  3. 3.The Nature Conservancy, Conservation Science GroupChicagoUSA
  4. 4.The Nature Conservancy, Conservation Science GroupArlingtonUSA

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