Identification of spatial patterns of species diversity is a central problem in conservation biology, with the patterns having implications for the design of biodiversity monitoring programs. Nonetheless, there are few field data with which to examine whether variation in species richness represents consistent correlations among taxa in the richness of rare or common species, or the relative importance of common and rare species in establishing trends in species richness within taxa. We used field data on three higher taxa (birds, butterflies, vascular plants) to examine the correlation of species richness among taxa and the contribution of rare and common species to these correlations. We used graphical analysis to compare the contributions to spatial variation in species richness by widely-distributed (‘common’) and sparsely-distributed (‘rare’) species. The data came from the Swiss Biodiversity Monitoring Program, which is national in scope and based on a randomly located, regular sampling grid of 1 km2 cells, a scale relevant to real-world monitoring and management. We found that the correlation of species richness between groups of rare and common species varies among higher taxa, with butterflies exhibiting the highest levels of correlation. Species richness of common species is consistently positively correlated among these three taxa, but in no case exceeded 0.69. Spatial patterns of species richness are determined mainly by common species, in agreement with coarse resolution studies, but the contribution of rare species to variation in species richness varies within the study area in accordance with elevation. Our analyses suggest that spatial patterns in species richness can be described by sampling widely distributed species alone. Butterflies differ from the other two taxa in that the richness of red-listed species and other rare species is correlated with overall butterfly species richness. Monitoring of butterfly species richness may provide information on rare butterflies and on species richness of other taxa as well.

Pearman, P. B., & Weber, D. (2007). Common species determine richness patterns in biodiversity indicator taxa. Biological Conservation, 138(1–2), 109–119.