As the climate changes and ecosystems shift toward novel combinations of species, the methods and metrics of conservation science are becoming less species-centric. To meet this growing need, marine conservation paleobiologists stand to benefit from the addition of new, taxon-free benthic indices to the live–dead analysis tool kit. These indices, which were developed to provide actionable, policy-specific data, can be applied to the readily preservable component of benthic communities (e.g., mollusks) to assess the ecological quality status of the entire community. Because these indices are taxon-free, they remain applicable even as the climate changes and novel communities develop—making them a potentially valuable complement to traditionally applied approaches for live–dead analysis, which tend to focus on maintaining specific combinations of species under relatively stable environmental conditions. Integrating geohistorical data with these established indices has potential to increase the salience of the live–dead approach in the eyes of resource managers and other stakeholders.
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Vol. 46 • No. 3