Avoiding costly conservation mistakes: The importance of defining actions and costs in spatial priority setting

Carwardine, Josie, Wilson, Kerrie A., Watts, Matt, Etter, Andres, Klein, Carissa J. and Possingham, Hugh P. (2008) Avoiding costly conservation mistakes: The importance of defining actions and costs in spatial priority setting. PLoS one, 3 7: e2586-1-e2586-6. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002586

Author Carwardine, Josie
Wilson, Kerrie A.
Watts, Matt
Etter, Andres
Klein, Carissa J.
Possingham, Hugh P.
Title Avoiding costly conservation mistakes: The importance of defining actions and costs in spatial priority setting
Journal name PLoS one   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication date 2008-07-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0002586
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 3
Issue 7
Start page e2586-1
End page e2586-6
Total pages 6
Place of publication San Francisco, CA, United States
Publisher Public Library of Science
Language eng
Subject 0502 Environmental Science and Management
050205 Environmental Management
050209 Natural Resource Management
050211 Wildlife and Habitat Management
050202 Conservation and Biodiversity
Formatted abstract
The typical mandate in conservation planning is to identify areas that represent biodiversity targets within the smallest possible area of land or sea, despite the fact that area may be a poor surrogate for the cost of many conservation actions. It is also common for priorities for conservation investment to be identified without regard to the particular conservation action that will be implemented. This demonstrates inadequate problem specification and may lead to inefficiency: the cost of alternative conservation actions can differ throughout a landscape, and may result in dissimilar conservation priorities.

Methodology/Principal Findings
We investigate the importance of formulating conservation planning problems with objectives and cost data that relate to specific conservation actions. We identify priority areas in Australia for two alternative conservation actions: land acquisition and stewardship. Our analyses show that using the cost surrogate that most closely reflects the planned conservation action can cut the cost of achieving our biodiversity goals by half. We highlight spatial differences in relative priorities for land acquisition and stewardship in Australia, and provide a simple approach for determining which action should be undertaken where.

Our study shows that a poorly posed conservation problem that fails to pre-specify the planned conservation action and incorporate cost a priori can lead to expensive mistakes. We can be more efficient in achieving conservation goals by clearly specifying our conservation objective and parameterising the problem with economic data that reflects this objective.
Keyword Conservation planning
Biodiversity goals
Economic data
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

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Created: Sat, 22 Nov 2008, 01:58:07 EST by Gail Walter on behalf of School of Biological Sciences