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Developing causal models to improve the assessment of ecosystem integrity and conservation value

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Title: Developing causal models to improve the assessment of ecosystem integrity and conservation value
Author: Capmourteres, Virginia Edith
Department: School of Environmental Sciences
Program: Environmental Sciences
Advisor: Anand, Madhur
Abstract: In the current scenario of biodiversity loss, scientists and managers have focused on assessing ecosystem integrity and conservation value. However, the ad hoc multimetric indices used in the assessment of integrity have been criticised for being subjective and unfounded. As for conservation value, doubts remain not only on the metrics used in its assessment, but also on the diverse meanings the concept is given in the literature. In this thesis, I examine the potential of causal models, specifically Structural Equation Modeling (SEM), to improve or complement existing methods used in the assessment of ecosystem integrity and conservation value. First, I exemplify how SEM can help understand the relationships among ecosystem integrity variables and thus help refine the monitoring of ecosystem integrity. Second, I cross-examine the most widely used multimetric index, the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI), with Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA) and SEM as alternative or complementary methods to assess ecosystem integrity. Third, I examine the use and quantification of the concept of ‘conservation value’ (CV) in the literature (1976-2014). Fourth, I use SEM to analyse relationships among CV metrics (e.g. endemism, richness, threatened species, habitat loss), and show how some of these are related to socio-economic contexts in the global biodiversity hotspots. I conclude that the application of causal models can aid the assessment of ecosystem integrity and conservation value. In terms of ecosystem integrity, I argue that the selection of indicators for monitoring programs can be improved by exploring complex and simultaneous interactions between structures and functions of ecosystems. Additionally, the use of CCA and SEM can complement the typically used multimetric indices and help with the development of more objective and science-based estimations of ecosystem integrity. In terms of conservation value, I discuss the concept is still evolving and adapting to new conservation and management scenarios. Finally, I argue causal models can support the assessment of CV by acknowledging causal links between CV metrics and providing a tool to evaluate the response of various CV metrics to diverse scenarios of human pressure.
Date: 2016-12
Rights: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
Terms of Use: All items in the Atrium are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.
Related Publications: 1) Capmourteres, V., & Anand, M. (2016). “Conservation value”: a review of the concept and its quantification. Ecosphere, 7(10) , 2) Capmourteres, V., & Anand, M. (2016). Assessing ecological integrity: A multi-scale structural and functional approach using Structural Equation Modeling. Ecological Indicators, 71, 258-269.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada