Limitations and trade-offs in the use of species distribution maps for protected area planning

Di Marco, Moreno, Watson, James E. M., Possingham, Hugh P. and Venter, Oscar (2016) Limitations and trade-offs in the use of species distribution maps for protected area planning. Journal of Applied Ecology, 1-10. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12771


Author Di Marco, Moreno
Watson, James E. M.
Possingham, Hugh P.
Venter, Oscar
Title Limitations and trade-offs in the use of species distribution maps for protected area planning
Journal name Journal of Applied Ecology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1365-2664
0021-8901
Publication date 2016-09-15
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/1365-2664.12771
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Start page 1
End page 10
Total pages 10
Place of publication Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell Publishing
Language eng
Formatted abstract
1.Range maps represent the geographic distribution of species, and they are commonly used to determine species coverage within protected areas and to find additional places needing protection. However, range maps are characterized by commission errors, where species are thought to be present in locations where they are not. When available, habitat suitability models can reduce commission errors in range maps, but these models are not always available. Adopting a coarse spatial resolution is often seen as an alternative approach for reducing the effect of commission errors, but this comes with poorly explored conservation trade-offs.
2.Here, we characterize these trade-offs by identifying scenarios of protected area expansion for the world's threatened terrestrial mammals under different resolutions (10–200 km) and distribution data deriving from range maps and habitat suitability models.
3.We found that planning new protected areas using range maps results in an overestimation of the species protection level when compared with habitat suitability models (which are more closely related to species presence). This overestimation increases when more area is selected for protection and is higher when higher spatial resolutions are employed.
4.Adopting coarse resolutions reduced the overestimation of species protection and also halved the spatial incongruence between protected areas prioritized from range maps or habitat suitability models. However, this came at a very high cost, with an area of up to four times greater (12 M km2 vs. 3 M km2) needed to adequately protect all species.
5.Synthesis and applications. Our findings demonstrate that adopting coarse resolutions in protected area planning results in unsustainable increases in costs, with limited benefits in terms of reducing the effect of commission errors in species range maps. We recommend that, if some level of uncertainty is acceptable to practitioners, using range maps at resolutions of 20–30 km is the best compromise for reducing the effect of commission errors while maintaining cost-efficiency in conservation analyses.
Keyword Commission errors
Conservation planning
Geographic range
Habitat suitability model
IUCN range maps
Protected area planning
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management Publications
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Created: Tue, 11 Oct 2016, 00:03:19 EST by James Watson on behalf of Learning and Research Services (UQ Library)