The Structure of Diversity: Implications for Reserve Design

EPA Grant Number: R826102
Title: The Structure of Diversity: Implications for Reserve Design
Investigators: Ellstrand, Norman C.
Institution: University of California - Riverside
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: November 1, 1997 through October 31, 2000
Project Amount: $272,495
RFA: Exploratory Research - Environmental Biology (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Biology/Life Sciences , Ecosystems


The goal of this research is to assess consequences of alternative reserve design strategies on maintenance of different levels of diversity. The following questions are addressed: 1) Do reserve guidelines applied to species distribution conserve genetic diversity, maintain likelihood of rare species persistence, conserve general species diversity, and conserve ecosystem diversity? 2) Do reserve guidelines applied at the ecosystem level conserve genetic diversity of individual rare species, maintain likelihood of rare species persistence, conserve general species diversity, and conserve ecosystem diversity? 3) Does a reserve designed for one species adequately protect other rare taxa in the same ecosystem? 4) Are multiple species more effectively conserved in terms of likelihood of persistence and genetic diversity by using a species-by-species approach or by using an ecosystem approach? The null hypotheses for all these questions is that there is no relationship between diversity at different levels and that there is no relationship between alternative reserve designs and biodiversity conservation.


Five rare plant taxa endemic to limestone and dolomite soils of California's San Bernardino Mountains (Astragalus albens, Erigeron parishii, Eriogonum ovalifolium var. vineum, Lesquerella kingii ssp. bernardina, and Oxytheca parishii var. goodmaniana) and their associated ecosystems provide the study system. The following parameters will be characterized for as many of these species as possible: spatial distribution, genetic (allozyme) diversity, proximal species and ecosystem diversity, and demography. A computer-based algorithm will be apply to 10 general reserve guidelines to distributional data for each rare taxon (species level) and vegetation communities (ecosystem level) to objectively select sites for inclusion in reserve networks. Results of each reserve strategy will be compared in terms of how representative protected areas are of documented reference conditions.

Expected Results:

Adequacy of general reserve guidelines in conserving biodiversity will depend on spatial distribution of that diversity across the landscape. Regardless of the patterns documented in this research the results will provide crucial data that can be directly applied to conservation and recovery of 5 federally-listed taxa while reducing conflicts between mining activities and conservation. The results will also have general application in evaluating consequences of applying general reserve design guidelines to the most commonly held data (i.e., distributional data). General application to other situations will be improved by using multiple, unrelated taxa with differing life histories in this study. These results will be unique in specifically evaluating such application to different levels of diversity in the same system and as such will advance understanding of applying conservation biology principles to land management questions.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 5 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 4 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Ecosystem, plants, diversity, soils, extinctions, habitat., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Genetics, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, exploratory research environmental biology, State, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Monitoring/Modeling, Biology, Ecological Indicators, biodiversity, conservation, demographic factors, alternative reserve design strategy, ecological assessment, species diversity, proximal species, California (CA)

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1998
  • 1999
  • Final Report