Ecosystem classification and inventory maps as surrogates for ground beetle assemblages in boreal forest

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AimsWe compare performance of ecosystem classification maps and provincial forest inventory data derived from air photography in reflecting ground beetle (Coleoptera: Carabidae) biodiversity patterns that are related to the forest canopy mosaic. Our biodiversity surrogacy model based on remotely sensed tree canopy cover is validated against field-collected ground data.MethodsWe used a systematic sampling grid of 198 sites, covering 84 km2 of boreal mixedwood forest in northwestern Alberta, Canada. For every site, we determined tree basal area, characterized the ground beetle assemblage and obtained corresponding provincial forest inventory and ecosystem classification information. We used variation partitioning, ordination and misclassification matrices to compare beetle biodiversity patterns explained by alternative databases and to determine model biases originating from air photo-interpretation.Important FindingsEcosystem classification data performed better than canopy cover derived from forest inventory maps in describing ground beetle biodiversity patterns. The biodiversity surrogacy models based on provincial forest inventory maps and field survey generally detected similar patterns but inaccuracies in air photo-interpretation of relative canopy cover led to differences between the two models. Compared to field survey data, air photo-interpretation tended to confuse two Picea species and two Populus species present and homogenize stand mixtures. This generated divergence in models of ecological association used to predict the relationship between ground beetle assemblages and tree canopy cover. Combination of relative canopy cover from provincial inventory with other geo-referenced land variables to produce the ecosystem classification maps improved biodiversity predictive power. The association observed between uncommon surrogates and uncommon ground beetle species emphasizes the benefits of detecting these surrogates as a part of landscape management. In order to complement conservation efforts established in protected areas, accurate, high resolution, wide ranging and spatially explicit knowledge of landscapes under management is primordial in order to apply effective biodiversity conservation strategies at the stand level as required in the extensively harvested portion of the boreal forest. In development of these strategies, an in-depth understanding of vegetation is key.

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