New Study Reveals the Limitations of the Surrogacy Approach to Conservation Planning

An area representative of the study site in Wyoming.

A new study in Conservation Biology reveals that trying to use conservation areas designed for a single aquatic group (such as fish) will protect common and rare fish species, but may not ensure that rare, endangered species of other aquatic groups (mussels, amphibians, or aquatic reptiles) are protected by conservation priority areas. This research likely has important implications for the future planning of protected areas like national parks and wildlife refuges. 

Statistics are often used in conservation planning. For example, different statistical methods help biologists predict species abundance or their occurrence within a given area.

In doing so, statisticians and biologists can use information about where a species is known to occur as well as predict where the species is also likely to occur across a broad area. This information is then used to determine where conservation priority areas may be needed to protect the c

This area in Wyoming is representative of the research study area.

ore areas of each species.


Oftentimes, biologists use statistical information about one species to try to identify conservation priority areas for other, less common species. This is known as the surrogacy approach.

The study reveals that using information from a single aquatic group may not be an effective approach to conservation planning. Thus, effective conservation planning practices likely requires information on all species to help better ensure that all rare, endangered freshwater species and their habitats are protected.