Monitoring the fabric of nature: using allometric trophic network models and observations to assess policy effects on biodiversity

Resumen: Species diversity underpins all ecosystem services that support life. Despite this recognition and the great advances in detecting biodiversity, exactly how many and which species co-occur and interact, directly or indirectly in any ecosystem is unknown. Biodiversity accounts are incomplete; taxonomically, size, habitat, mobility or rarity biased. In the ocean, the provisioning of fish, invertebrates and algae is a fundamental ecosystem service. This extracted biomass depends on a myriad of microscopic and macroscopic organisms that make up the fabric of nature and which are affected by management actions. Monitoring them all and attributing changes to management policies is daunting. Here we propose that dynamic quantitative models of species interactions can be used to link management policy and compliance with complex ecological networks. This allows managers to qualitatively identify ‘interaction-indicator’ species, which are highly impacted by management policies through propagation of complex ecological interactions. We ground the approach in intertidal kelp harvesting in Chile and fishers’ compliance with policies. Results allow us to identify sets of species that respond to management policy and/or compliance, but which are often not included in standardized monitoring. The proposed approach aids in the design of biodiversity programmes that attempt to connect management with biodiversity change.

This article is part of the theme issue ‘Detecting and attributing the causes of biodiversity change: needs, gaps and solutions’.

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