Nestedness analysis and conservation planning: The importance of place, environment, and life history across taxonomic groups

Erica Fleishman, Christopher J. Betrus, Robert B. Blair, Ralph Mac Nally, Dennis D. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


We used nested subsets analysis to examine distribution patterns of birds and butterflies in the same set of 83 locations in canyons of three mountain ranges in the Great Basin of western North America. We tested whether the same environmental variables influenced nestedness among taxonomic groups and among mountain ranges within taxonomic groups. We also examined whether nestedness of birds and butterflies appeared to be sensitive to human use of riparian areas in the ecoregion. Site area and topography did not appear to differ in their influence on nestedness of birds. By contrast, area and topography differed in how strongly they affected nestedness of butterflies, but their respective influence varied among mountain ranges. Riparian dependence had little discernible effect on nested distribution patterns of either taxonomic group. Because processes influencing distribution patterns can differ among taxonomic groups, and the relative importance of those processes may vary spatially even within a taxonomic group, we urge restraint in using birds and butterflies as surrogates of other taxa for conservation planning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-89
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments Thanks to Eric Porter, Bruce Patterson, and an anonymous reviewer for valuable comments on the manuscript. We gratefully acknowledge George Austin, Carol Boggs, Paul Ehrlich, and John Fay for their instrumental participation in our ongoing work. Thanks to Melissa Betrus for assistance with data collection and to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest for logistic support in the field. Support for this research was provided by the Nevada Biodiversity Research and Conservation Initiative, Miami University, and by the Joint Fire Sciences Program via the Rocky Mountain Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. R.M. also acknowledges support of the Australian Research Council.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Birds
  • Butterflies
  • Conservation
  • Indicator species
  • Nestedness

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