Summary

The Berger-Parker index provides a reliable and simple measure of evenness. However, other indices such as the Shannon and Simpson measures may provide deeper insights into the diversity of a system than is possible with the Berger-Parker index because they incorporate information on species abundance and the number of individuals belonging to each species. Generally, a biodiversity index should be used in concert with other indices and/or other approaches for assessing biological diversity. Because there are multiple facets to biodiversity, the information provided by a single index or analytical technique usually will not be sufficient for understanding an ecological community. Few studies rely on the information provided by one index or analytical technique for making conclusions about a site.

Before using any index to measure diversity, it is important to characterize (1) the distribution of the population; (2) the deterministic behavior of diversity, richness, and evenness measures for each distribution; (3) the role of unequal, equal-sized, or accumulated samples; and (4) whether the evaluation is within or between communities or populations. Once these assessments have been made, it may be easier to select the appropriate diversity index of combination of indices for the study.

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