Prioritizing global conservation efforts. Nature

The Ecology Centre, Schools of Integrative Biology and Physical Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia.
Nature (Impact Factor: 41.46). 04/2006; 440(7082):337-40. DOI: 10.1038/nature04366
Source: PubMed


One of the most pressing issues facing the global conservation community is how to distribute limited resources between regions identified as priorities for biodiversity conservation. Approaches such as biodiversity hotspots, endemic bird areas and ecoregions are used by international organizations to prioritize conservation efforts globally. Although identifying priority regions is an important first step in solving this problem, it does not indicate how limited resources should be allocated between regions. Here we formulate how to allocate optimally conservation resources between regions identified as priorities for conservation--the 'conservation resource allocation problem'. Stochastic dynamic programming is used to find the optimal schedule of resource allocation for small problems but is intractable for large problems owing to the "curse of dimensionality". We identify two easy-to-use and easy-to-interpret heuristics that closely approximate the optimal solution. We also show the importance of both correctly formulating the problem and using information on how investment returns change through time. Our conservation resource allocation approach can be applied at any spatial scale. We demonstrate the approach with an example of optimal resource allocation among five priority regions in Wallacea and Sundaland, the transition zone between Asia and Australasia.

Download full-text


Available from: Kerrie Ann Wilson,
40 Reads
  • Source
    • "Since it first emerged as its own field of study, conservation biology has been described as a 'crisis discipline' (Cardillo and Meijaard, 2012; Pullin and Knight, 2001; Soulé, 1985), with policy decisions and management actions proceeding despite uncertainty. Further, conservation biology is implemented under extremely limited resources where prioritization schemes for maximal efficiency abound (Wilson et al., 2006). Discussions are increasing of whether and how triage techniques might determine which species and ecosystems are imperiled beyond the effort and cost of recovery (Bottrill et al., 2008; Clements et al., 2011; Pimm, 2000; Walker, 1992). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Region-specific conservation programs should have objective, reliable metrics for species prioritization and progress evaluation that are customizable to the goals of a program, easy to comprehend and communicate , and standardized across time. Regional programs may have vastly different goals, spatial coverage, or management agendas, and one-size-fits-all schemes may not always be the best approach. We propose a quantitative and objective framework for generating metrics for prioritizing species that is straightforward to implement and update, customizable to different spatial resolutions, and based on readily available time-series data. This framework is also well-suited to handling missing-data and observer error. We demonstrate this approach using North American Breeding Bird Survey (NABBS) data to identify conservation priority species from a list of over 300 landbirds across 33 bird conservation regions (BCRs). To highlight the flexibility of the framework for different management goals and timeframes we calculate two different metrics. The first identifies species that may be inadequately monitored by NABBS protocols in the near future (TMT, time to monitoring threshold), and the other identifies species likely to decline significantly in the near future based on recent trends (TPD, time to percent decline). Within the individual BCRs we found up to 45% (mean 28%) of the species analyzed had overall declining population trajectories, which could result in up to 37 species declining below a minimum NABBS monitoring threshold in at least one currently occupied BCR within the next 50 years. Additionally, up to 26% (mean 8%) of the species analyzed within the individual BCRs may decline by 30% within the next decade. Conservation workers interested in conserving avian diversity and abundance within these BCRs can use these metrics to plan alternative monitoring schemes or highlight the urgency of those populations experiencing the fastest declines. However, this framework is adaptable to many taxa besides birds where abundance time-series data are available. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
    Ecological Indicators 11/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.10.020 · 3.44 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "Fundamental knowledge obtained from threat mapping studies needs to be combined with estimated habitat loss rates caused by threats, and costs of conservation actions, to cost-efficiently minimize losses. While prioritization of actions based on cost-effectiveness has been supported by many studies in terrestrial ecosystems (e.g., [55]; [13]; [1], such analyses are rare in marine systems (but see [34]. Prioritization methods for terrestrial ecosystems may not translate directly to marine habitats, because marine ecosystems function in fundamentally different ways [7] and are more challenging to map than terrestrial ecosystems [35]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Marine coastal habitats provide valuable ecosystem services, including food provision, carbon sequestration, and coastal protection, but they are highly threatened by human activities. The multitude of human stressors affecting coastal habitats renders their conservation a difficult task for environmental agencies with limited budgets. This study, using seagrass meadows - one of the world's most threatened coastal habitats - proposes a transparent framework for the conservation of coastal habitats that links information from habitat and threat maps to conservation actions, and their costs. The proposed framework and the use of a predictive model of seagrass loss allowed the selection of the most cost-effective actions to abate stoppable threats (trawling and anchoring), while avoiding areas affected by threats that are more difficult to manage, such as coastal development. The relative improvement in cost achieved by using the proposed approach was examined by comparing with other common prioritization criteria that do not consider cost, including choosing sites based on threat level or habitat cover alone. The establishment of anti-trawling reefs was found to be the most cost-effective action to achieve the European Union conservation target for the protection of seagrass Posidonia oceanica meadows. The number of anti-trawling reefs and their establishment location was sensitive to fine-scale information on the distribution of fishing activities. The proposed approach always conserved the same habitat for lower cost than prioritization schemes that focus actions in areas of highest seagrass coverage or highest threat level. The study results suggest that conservation actions should not be prioritized on the basis of habitat maps and/or threat maps alone. Impact assessment and habitat vulnerability at a local scale would greatly benefit from detailed knowledge of the spatial distribution of stressors. At the same time, methods of scaling up the quantitative impact of stressors are urgently needed to understand their relationship with seascape-wide habitat coverage and to inform conservation of coastal habitats.
    Marine Policy 11/2015; 61:95-102. DOI:10.1016/j.marpol.2015.07.004 · 2.62 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "When accounting for previously protected areas, related corner solutions are usually optimal. We expected high correspondence between these ROI values and actual expenditures at the state level if TNC funding was flexible across borders and the organization was prioritizing areas where the most species could be protected at the lowest cost (i.e., a maximize-gain approach to ROI in contrast to a minimize-loss alternative [Wilson et al. 2006]). Our approach is intended to represent relative differences in biodiversity need for, and potential gains from, conservation investment between states, not absolute gains in biodiversity protected, which is often inferred from species area curves (e.g., Venter et al. 2009). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Caught between ongoing habitat destruction and funding shortfalls, conservation organizations are using systematic planning approaches to identify places that offer the highest biodiversity return per dollar invested. However, available tools do not account for the landscape of funding for conservation or quantify the constraints this landscape imposes on conservation outcomes. Using state-level data on philanthropic giving to and investments in land conservation by a large nonprofit organization, we applied linear regression to evaluate whether the spatial distribution of conservation philanthropy better explained expenditures on conservation than maps of biodiversity priorities, which were derived from a planning process internal to the organization and return on investment (ROI) analyses based on data on species richness, land costs, and existing protected areas. Philanthropic fund raising accounted for considerably more spatial variation in conservation spending (r(2) = 0.64) than either of the 2 systematic conservation planning approaches (r(2) = 0.08-0.21). We used results of one of the ROI analyses to evaluate whether increases in flexibility to reallocate funding across space provides conservation gains. Small but plausible "tax" increments of 1-10% on states redistributed to the optimal funding allocation from the ROI analysis could result in gains in endemic species protected of 8.5-80.2%. When such increases in spatial flexibility are not possible, conservation organizations should seek to cultivate increased support for conservation in priority locations. We used lagged correlations of giving to and spending by the organization to evaluate whether investments in habitat protection stimulate future giving to conservation. The most common outcome at the state level was that conservation spending quarters correlated significantly and positively with lagged fund raising quarters. In effect, periods of high fund raising for biodiversity followed (rather than preceded) periods of high expenditure on land conservation projects, identifying one mechanism conservation organizations could explore to seed greater activity in priority locations. Our results demonstrate how limitations on the ability of conservation organizations to reallocate their funding across space can impede organizational effectiveness and elucidate ways conservation planning tools could be more useful if they quantified and incorporated these constraints.
    Conservation Biology 10/2015; DOI:10.1111/cobi.12608 · 4.17 Impact Factor
Show more