Mike Ivy's response

Richard L. Brown moth at RA.MSSTATE.EDU
Wed May 21 17:05:41 CDT 1997


Mike Ivy wrote

>My point is that morphospecies-based studies cannot be dismissed as bad
>just because they aren't good systematics.  Unless the study involves
>COMPARATIVE work, which many do not have as their goal, names are just
>not that useful.  Period.

  However, in MANY
>cases where management decisions are involved, there will be no
>revisiting, and no comparative work.

Its hard to imagine making management decisions without comparative
studies, and if so, I suspect decisions are already made regardless of any
token study.

Lets take a real example involving the building of a 4-lane bypass (US 45)
around Crawford, smack dab in the middle of the Blackbelt, which includes
both prairie and oak-hickory remnants, the prairies including many plants
not occurring elsewhere in MS and the oak-hickory forest including several
localized species.

An ecologist is contracted to recommend placement of the by-pass, and he
uses macrolepidoptera (moths) to estimate diversity because they can be
easily separated to morphospecies. He finds 230 morphospecies
(Shannon-Wiener H = 4.09; not that the ecologist would use this measure) of
macrolepidoptera in the prairie and 301 morphospecies (H = 4.42)in the
forest.  Which of the two areas, prairie or forest, would the ecologist
recommend for highway placement without any knowledge of species
identities?

The taxonomist, who gets the moths and identifies them (which allows for
retrieval of published and unpublished data), finds that there are 14 new
species, two of which are endemic, in the prairie as well as 25 species
with distributions disjunct from the Great Plains.  In contrast, the forest
has a few "localized" species but no endemics or disjuncts.  Which of the
two areas would the taxonomist recommend for highway placement?

I believe that ecologists have led us down a rosy path, i.e., maximum
species diversity (with its myriad measurements) is most important.  It is
time for taxonomists to surplant this ecological paradigm of species
diversity with uniqueness, and only with species identifications and
retrieval ability can we come close to estimating uniqueness.  Only
problem, and one the ecologists' can't live with, is that you can't count
uniqueness.

Richard L. Brown
Mississippi Entomological Museum
Box 9775
Mississippi State, MS 39762
fax: (601) 325-8837
e-mail: moth at ra.msstate.edu




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