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Review article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

The use of response measures in meta-analyses of land-use impacts on ecological communities: a review and the way forward

Hekkala, Anne-Maarit; Roberge, Jean-Michel


Species richness and total abundance are two of the most commonly used response measures in empirical studies of the effects of anthropogenic land-use on biodiversity, in spite of the fact that they are insensitive to changes in a range of community attributes. We evaluated the extent to which meta-analyses about the effects of forest land-use on ecological communities make use of gross species richness, diversity and abundance measures (hereafter low-informative measures) as opposed to more refined response variables conveying a higher degree of conservation-relevant information, e.g., by accounting for compositional or functional changes in the communities (high-informative measures). Nearly one-half of the 221 included meta-analyses were based solely on low-informative measures. The prevalence of low-informative measures was higher for meta-analyses belonging to studies encompassing a broad taxonomic scope and it has increased since 2002. Few differences were detected in the use of response measures among taxonomic groups, although there were indications that some better-known groups tended to be more often studied with high-informative measures. To provide guidance for future work, we synthesized the high-informative measures of biodiversity used in the reviewed studies. For better-informed meta-analyses, we encourage the use of more refined approaches to quantify impacts on communities in addition to species richness and total abundance measures. This may involve, for example, the use of beta diversity and functional diversity measures, as well as separate analyses for different ecological groups or conservation status categories.


Community structure; Diversity; Ecological groups; Functional diversity; Species traits; Land-use change

Published in

Biodiversity and Conservation
2018, Volume: 27, number: 11, pages: 2989-3005
Publisher: SPRINGER