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Ecology. 2012 Sep;93(9):2001-7.

Conserving and promoting evenness: organic farming and fire-based wildland management as case studies.

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Department of Entomology, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164, USA.


Healthy ecosystems include many species (high richness) with similar abundances (high evenness). Thus, both aspects of biodiversity are worthy of conservation. Simultaneously conserving richness and evenness might be difficult, however, if, for example, the restoration of previously absent species to low densities brings a cost in reduced evenness. Using meta-analysis, we searched for benefits to biodiversity following adoption of two common land-management schemes: the implementation of organic practices by farmers and of controlled burning by natural-land managers. We used rarefaction to eliminate sampling bias in all of our estimates of richness and evenness. Both conservation practices significantly increased evenness and overall abundance across taxonomic classifications (arthropods, birds, non-bird vertebrates, plants, soil organisms). Evenness and richness varied independently, leading to no richness-evenness correlation and no significant overall change in richness. Demonstrating the importance of rarefaction, analyses of raw data that did not receive rarefaction indicated misleadingly strong benefits of organic agriculture and burning for richness while underestimating true gains in evenness. Both organic farming and burning favored species that were not numerically dominant, re-balancing communities as uncommon species gained individuals. Our results support the assertion that richness and evenness capture separate facets of biodiversity, each needing individual attention during conservation.

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