Clustering and ensembling approaches to support surrogate-based species management

Diversity and Distributions
By: , and 




Surrogate species can provide an efficient mechanism for biodiversity conservation if they encompass the needs or indicate the status of a broader set of species. When species that are the focus of ongoing management efforts act as effective surrogates for other species, these incidental surrogacy benefits lead to additional efficiency. Assessing surrogate relationships often relies on grouping species by distributional patterns or by species traits, but there are few approaches for integrating outputs from multiple methods into summaries of surrogate relationships that can inform decision‐making.


Prairie Pothole Region of the United States.


We evaluated how well five upland‐nesting waterfowl species that are a focus of management may act as surrogates for other wetland‐dependent birds. We grouped species by their patterns of relative abundance at multiple scales and by different sets of traits, and evaluated whether empirical validation could effectively select among the resulting species groupings. We used an ensemble approach to integrate the different estimated relationships among species and visualized the ensemble as a network diagram.


Estimated relationships among species were sensitive to methodological decisions, with qualitatively different relationships arising from different approaches. An ensemble provided an effective tool for integrating across different estimates and highlighted the Sora (Porzana carolina), American Avocet (Recurvirostra Americana) and Black Tern (Chlidonias niger) as the non‐waterfowl species expected to show the strongest incidental surrogacy relationships with the waterfowl that are the focus of ongoing management.

Main conclusions

An ensemble approach integrated multiple estimates of surrogate relationship strength among species and allowed for intuitive visualizations within a network. By accounting for methodological uncertainty while providing a simple continuous metric of surrogacy, our approach is amenable to both further validation and integration into decision‐making.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Clustering and ensembling approaches to support surrogate-based species management
Series title Diversity and Distributions
DOI 10.1111/ddi.12933
Volume 25
Issue 8
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 13 p.
First page 1246
Last page 1258
Country Canada, United States
State Alberta, Iowa, Manitoba, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Saskatchewan, South Dakota,
Other Geospatial Prairie Pothole Region
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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