The role of rarity as a surrogate of marine fish species representation

Fabio Albuquerque, Yaiyr Astudillo-Scalia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Because the distribution of most of the species is poorly known, conservationists use surrogates to help maximize the representation level of all species. Historically, species richness has been used to calculate the importance of priority areas for conservation, but several studies revealed sites with high species richness often fail to determine the smallest number of sites that will protect the highest number of species. Rarity, however, has played a prominent role in safeguarding planning units. While the performance of rarity has been previously assessed in terrestrial systems, we tested the hypothesis that rarity of a site can be used as a measure of the importance of a site to a conservation network in marine ecosystems. We used the presence data (at a 1-degree resolution) to calculate five rarity indices of fish diversity at a global extent and compared the results to those obtained by using species richness and site complementarity. Our objectives were to: (1) determine if rarity indices can be used as surrogates of fish biodiversity by representing the highest number of species in the smallest number of sites; and (2) determine if the effectiveness of these indices to represent fish biodiversity is impacted by the metric used to define rarity. Results indicate that rarity could be an effective surrogate for marine fishes, as most results showed a mean of 100% effectiveness. In the context of marine biodiversity conservation, results show that rarity indices could be considered affordable and feasible surrogates of species representation, with the most significant benefit to those areas of the world that are in most need to access alternative tools. Results also open a new area of collaboration between biogeography and marine conservation biology since planners can use biogeographical patterns of rarity to enhance the performance of the current protected area network.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere8373
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020


  • Alpha diversity
  • Index of relative rarity
  • Index of summed rarity
  • Marine fishes
  • Rarity
  • Rarity weighted richness
  • Surrogates of biodiversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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