Kathryn E. Battle, Krishna Pacifici, Jaime Collazo, and Brian Reich. 2020. Using biodiversity metrics to guide conservation planning in altered tropical landscapes. Caribbean Naturalist 77:1-17. ISSN 2326-7119.
Biodiversity metrics are frequently used to guide conservation planning because they can summarize biogeographical attributes of plant and animal communities quickly and at multiple scales. Attributes include habitat features of high conservation value, representativeness and redundancy of biological communities. We conducted a rapid ecological assessment of resident avian species in the west-central mountainous region of Puerto Rico in 2015, a landscape dominated by coffee cultivation. We focused on this landscape because shade and shade-restored coffee plantations offer an opportunity to complement protected habitat (e.g., reserves) to enhance species persistence. We used species richness, which tallies the number of unique species, and a quadratic entropy index of diversity, which incorporates interspecific taxonomic differentiation to evaluate species representativeness and redundancy across sun and shade coffee plantations and secondary forest. We surveyed 120 sites, calculating both metrics using species-specific occupancy probabilities estimated from community-level occupancy models. Species representativeness and redundancy was high as neither metric was able to discriminate among habitat classes, possibly because plant communities were redundant and the avian community was dominated by species adept at exploiting altered habitats. Similarly, we could not discriminate among avian communities modeling each biodiversity metric as a function of site-specific habitat covariates. Our findings and available knowledge on avian community demographics suggest that conservation strategies could couple protected habitat (e.g., reserves) and restored habitat (e.g., coffee plantations) to enhance species diversity and persistence across human-modified landscapes.