Multiple measures are necessary to assess rarity in macro-molluscs: a case study from southeastern Australia
Our knowledge of suitable criteria to determine rarity in most marine invertebrates is lacking, thus hindering targeted impact studies, long-term monitoring programs, and associated conservation strategies. Standardized definitions of rarity are required to enable comparisons of different assemblages and taxa. Gaston (Rarity, Chapman and Hall, Melbourne, 1994) has recommended that rare species are defined as the lowest quartile of species in the assemblage. In this study, the 25% 'cut-off' was applied to intertidal macro-molluscs along the Illawarra Coast, Australia from 200 surveys of 13 reefs, using three measures of population structure; (1) local abundance (numerical rarity); (2) number of locations (spatial rarity) and; (3) percent of surveys (temporal rarity). Rare species were consequently defined as those species with no more than; (1) a local abundance of two individuals; (2) a regional occurrence at two reefs and/or; (3) a temporal occurrence in 2% of all surveys. These cut-off values increased when only intertidal specialists were analysed. Using a combination of all three measures, 62 species (42%) were classified as regionally rare, but only four of these were true intertidal specialists. Most species were rare by only one or two definitions of rarity; illustrating the importance of considering multiple measures of rarity and the need to design specifically targeted survey methods for future monitoring. Many species that are rare by all three definitions are likely to be temporary immigrants, as subtidal species were significantly more likely to be classified as rare. Clearly many factors can influence the rarity of marine invertebrates on intertidal reefs, and these must all be considered to set appropriate conservation priorities.