Document Type


Publication Date



Assessment and preservation of biodiversity has been a central theme of conservation biology since the discipline's inception. However, when diversity estimates are based purely on measures of presence–absence, or even abundance, they do not directly assess in what way focal habitats support the life history needs of individual species making up biological communities. Here, we move beyond naïve measures of occurrence and introduce the concept of “informed diversity” indices which scale estimates of avian species richness and community assemblage by two critical phases of their life cycle: breeding and molt. We tested the validity of the “informed diversity” concept using bird capture data from multiple locations in northern California and southern Oregon to examine patterns of species richness among breeding, molting, and naïve (based solely on occurrence) bird communities at the landscape and local scales using linear regression, community similarity indices, and a Detrended Correspondence Analysis (DCA). At the landscape scale, we found a striking pattern of increased species richness for breeding, molting, and naïve bird communities further inland and at higher elevations throughout the study area. At the local scale, we found that some sites with species‐rich naïve communities were in fact species‐poor when informed by breeding status, indicating that naïve richness may mask more biologically meaningful patterns of diversity. We suggest that land managers use informed diversity estimates instead of naïve measures of diversity to identify ecologically valuable wildlife habitat.

Publisher's Statement

© 2019 The Authors. Article deposited here in compliance with publisher policies. Publisher's version of record:

Publication Title

Ecology and Evolution

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Publisher's PDF



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.