The role of scale in designing protected area systems to conserve poorly known species

Kendall, Bruce E., Klein, Carissa J. and Possingham, Hugh P. (2015) The role of scale in designing protected area systems to conserve poorly known species. Ecosphere, 6 11: . doi:10.1890/ES15-00346.1

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Author Kendall, Bruce E.
Klein, Carissa J.
Possingham, Hugh P.
Title The role of scale in designing protected area systems to conserve poorly known species
Journal name Ecosphere   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 2150-8925
Publication date 2015-11-01
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1890/ES15-00346.1
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 6
Issue 11
Total pages 17
Place of publication Washington, DC, United States
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Language eng
Abstract Systematic conservation planning has a substantial theoretical underpinning that allows optimization of tradeoffs between biodiversity conservation and other socioeconomic goals. However, this theory assumes perfect spatial information about the locations of biodiversity features (e.g., species distributions). In practice, planners represent well-known taxa and other biodiversity “surrogates” in protected area systems, hoping that unmapped species will also be conserved. However, empirical research finds that surrogates predict species presence imperfectly, and sometimes rather poorly, at scales relevant to planning, and existing theory provides no further guidance. We developed new theory, explicitly incorporating aspects of spatial scale, for the representation problem when the locations of species distributions are unknown. Using probability theory and simulated and real species distributions, we found that the probability of adequately representing an unmapped species in a protected area system will be low unless the total fraction of the region being protected is larger than the species representation target. Furthermore, successful conservation depended critically on the relative sizes of the species distribution and of the individual protected areas; fewer, larger protected areas allowed the entire species distribution to fall into an unprotected gap. This scale-dependence varied with the configuration of the protected area system, with the conservation objective most likely to be attained if the individual protected areas were hyperdispersed (evenly spaced across the planning region). Using these results, we developed three design principles for representing unmapped species in protected areas: (1) The fraction of the region placed in protected areas should be substantially larger than the species-level representation target; (2) Individual protected areas must be at least one to two orders of magnitude smaller than the unmapped species' distribution; and (3) Protected areas should be evenly dispersed over geographic space. We also performed preliminary investigations of the effects of surrogates and socio-economic cost data on the probability of adequately representing unmapped species, finding that the primary effect of surrogates may simply be to promote hyperdispersion of protected areas across the planning region, and that seeking to minimize opportunity costs gives poorer conservation results than random protected area placement.
Keyword Biodiversity surrogates
Conservation planning
Protected area design
Reserve configuration
Spatial sampling
Species distributions
Unmapped species
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
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