The complex task of determining the inundation requirements of large floodplain wetlands is often simplified through the use of representative, umbrella or flagship species. This subset of species is targeted based on the assumption that their collective inundation requirements serve as a surrogate for the broader suite of species found within the wetland. We tested the application of representative species commonly used in wetland and water management planning in the Murray-Darling Basin. In a review of the water requirements of 155 plants and animals, we collated information on preferred inundation timing, duration, depth, rate of rise and fall, and inter-flood period for 115 species. We then used cluster analysis to determine the extent to which ten commonly used representative species corresponded in inundation requirements to the broader suite of species. We found that the habitat surrogates of river red gum, black box, spike rush, coolibah, water couch, lignum and marsh club-rush represented only one third of species at a 60% level of similarity in inundation requirements, due mainly to the lower inundation return period and duration required by the habitat surrogates. The addition of faunal representative species facilitated the inclusion of a broader range of requirements, though primarily amongst related taxa. We recommend the inclusion of several additional indicator species to more adequately cover the inundation requirements of large wetland ecosystems.
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Rogers, K., Ralph, T. J. & Saintilan, N. (2012). The use of representative species as surrogates for wetland inundation. Wetlands: the journal of the Society of Wetland Scientists, 32 (2), 249-256.