A critical decision in species conservation is whether to target individual species or a complex of ecologically similar species. Management of multispecies complexes is likely to be most effective when species share similar distributions, threats, and response to threats. We used niche overlap analysis to assess ecological similarity of 3 sensitive desert fish species currently managed as an ecological complex. We measured the amount of shared distribution of multiple habitat and life history parameters between each pair of species. Habitat use and multiple life history parameters, including maximum body length, spawning temperature, and longevity, differed significantly among the 3 species. The differences in habitat use and life history parameters among the species suggest they are likely to respond differently to similar threats and that most management actions will not benefit all 3 species equally. Habitat restoration, frequency of stream dewatering, non-native species control, and management efforts in tributaries versus main stem rivers are all likely to impact each of the species differently. Our results demonstrate that niche overlap analysis provides a powerful tool for assessing the likely effectiveness of multispecies versus single-species conservation plans.
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