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.

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    • "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 ab - solute gains in biodiversity protected , which is often in - ferred from species area curves ( e . "
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    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.
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    • "The complexity of conservation and management decisions for wood thrush and other migratory birds precludes simple judgements about where and how to invest conservation resources. With perfect knowledge of the system, the optimal investment would be the strategy that most efficiently achieves management objectives[47]. In reality, and for most species, managers have only limited understanding of the biological, economic, social and political systems that shape conservation actions. "

    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Proceedings of the Royal Society
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    • "As resources for biodiversity conservation remain constrained and the location of and threats to biodiversity are distributed unevenly, prioritization is one of the most common and essential strategies for cost-effective conservation management (Brooks et al. 2006; Wu et al. 2014). Priority areas are usually identified using information on relative biodiversity values (species richness or endemic species), past or present threats to these values, ecosystem services at different scales and current levels of protection (Margules and Pressey 2000; Reddy et al. 2015; Rubio et al. 2015; Wilson et al. 2006; Wu et al. 2014). However, the scarcity of comprehensive species distribution data with acceptable quality for most parts of the world constrains regional conservation planning at the fine, or local scale (Brooks et al. 1999; Fajardo et al. 2014; Huang et al. 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: International biodiversity conservation prioritization efforts often focus on biodiversity hotspots or valuable species. However, for most parts of the world, comprehensive species data with acceptable quality are still scarce to support regional priority evaluations. To model the factors that favor a high/important degree of biodiversity and threats; in this study, we provide an alternative conservation priority approach to use when species data are insufficient. Based on a Landsat-derived forest cover map of 2010 of the Eastern Himalaya of China, we defined forest nodes, measured and delineated their importance with the connectivity metric dPC at regional and sub-regional scales. Based on a deforestation map of 2000 to 2010, we simulated deforestation from 2010 to 2030 using the Dinamica EGO software at multiple scales, and calculated the threatened degree of each forest node at an optimal scale. We then ranked the conservation priorities by coupling the measurements of the connectivity importance values and simulated threatened degree of each important forest node. Six forest patches (2.5% of remaining forest in 2010) were ranked as conservation priority patch-I and II. The unprotected parts are recommended to be expanded into or established as new nature reserves. Although species information was not used, the identified forest patches accommodated existing nature reserves (48% overlapped) in this region. As a fast and efficient assessment approach, with outcomes that are valuable for regional conservation planning, this method could be widely used for any forest dominant regions when field data is insufficient to identify conservation priorities at a fine scale.
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