What is “dark diversity” and how can we use it to guide conservation and restoration?

The core of ecology is devoted to studying the interactions among species and their environment. But why are some species present and others absent in an environment? Think of a region of forest that has been converted to an agricultural field. The species that were thriving in the forest now have become absent because they are not tolerant of the new environmental conditions imposed upon them in the agricultural field.

Only a subset of all species in a region can tolerate the ecological conditions of a given site (the site-specific species pool). Of those, not all are realized in the local species pool. These absent species form what is called the dark diversity of a community. Authors Lewis et al. (2017) believe that the dark diversity concept can be used to complement and further develop conservation prioritization and management decision

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‘Otter’ Ways of Assessing Species Vulnerability to Climate Change

How do scientists figure out how a species will be impacted by climate change? They usually look at how their habitat will change with a changing climate – but that may not be the whole story. Other factors, such as a species environmental needs, how they tolerate change, and how their habitat will change (i.e. size, fragmentation, proximity to human disturbances) also need to be considered! Otters are among the most vulnerable mammals in the world, and determining where their specific threats from climate change come from will be key for conservationist to save them from extinction.

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