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The importance and use of taxon sampling curves for comparative biodiversity research with forest arthropod assemblages


For over three decades, the importance of taxon sampling curves for comparative biodiversity studies has been repeatedly stated. However, many entomologists (both within Canada and worldwide) continue to publish studies without standardizing their data to take sampling effort into account. We present a case study to illustrate the importance of such standardization, using the collection of spiders (Araneae) by pitfall traps as model data. Data were analyzed using rarefaction to represent one example of a taxon sampling curve, and by a variety of traditional diversity indices to describe alpha diversity. Raw species richness and single-index diversity measures (Shannon–Wiener, Simpson's, and Fisher's α) provided contradictory results. Rarefied species richness standardized to the number of individuals collected enabled more accurate comparisons of diversity and revealed when sampling was insufficient. Focusing on arthropods occurring in forested ecosystems, we also examined the use of taxon sampling curves in current literature by reviewing 133 published articles from 14 journals. Only 26% of the published articles in our review used a taxon sampling curve, and raw species richness and the Shannon–Wiener index of diversity were the most commonly used estimates. There is clearly a need to modify how alpha diversity is measured and compared for arthropod biodiversity studies. We recommend the abandonment of both raw species richness and single-index measures of diversity, and reiterate the need to use rarefaction or a related technique that allows for meaningful comparisons of species richness while taking into account sampling effort.


Au cours des trois dernières décennies, l'importance de l'utilisation de courbes de raréfaction de la diversité (i.e., « Taxon sampling curves ») dans les études comparatives de la biodiversité, à été souligné à maintes reprises. Néanmoins, plusieurs entomologistes (que se soit au Canada ou à l'échelle mondiale) continuent de publier des études ou les données n'ont pas été standardisées pour l'effort d'échantillonnage. Pour démontrer l'importance d'une telle standardisation, nous présentons ici les résultats d'un étude de cas, où des araignées (Araneae) collectées avec pièges fausses représentent les données pour le model. Ces données ont été analysées à l'aide d'indice de raréfaction pour représenter un exemple de courbes de raréfaction de la diversité et d'une variété d'indices plus traditionnel pour décrire la diversité « alpha ». La richesse spécifique et les mesures d'indice de diversité unique (Indice de Shannon–Wiener, Indice de Simpson et test Fisher) ont mené à des résultats contradictoires. La diversité des espèces, quand standardisé par le nombre d'individu collecté, a permit une comparaison plus précise de la diversité et a démontrée les cas où l'effort d'échantillonnage était insuffisant. Mettant l'emphase sur les arthropodes forestiers, nous avons aussi examiné l'utilisation des courbes de raréfaction de la diversité dans la littérature courante en révisant 133 publications de 14 journaux. Cette étude a révélé que seulement 26 % des articles révisés font usage de courbes de raréfaction de la diversité alors que la richesse spécifique et l'indice de Shannon–Wiener sont les estimations les plus couramment utilisées. Manifestement, les méthodes de mesure et de comparaison de la diversité alpha requiert des modifications. Nous recommandons l'abandon des mesures de diversité basées sur un index unique, et nous réitérons la nécessité d'utiliser des courbes de raréfaction ou autre technique apparentée afin de permettre des comparaisons de diversité d'espèce valables qui tiennent compte de l'effort d'échantillonnage.

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