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      Targeting Global Protected Area Expansion for Imperiled Biodiversity

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          Meeting international targets for expanding protected areas could simultaneously contribute to species conservation, but only if the distribution of threatened species informs the future establishment of protected areas.


          Governments have agreed to expand the global protected area network from 13% to 17% of the world's land surface by 2020 (Aichi target 11) and to prevent the further loss of known threatened species (Aichi target 12). These targets are interdependent, as protected areas can stem biodiversity loss when strategically located and effectively managed. However, the global protected area estate is currently biased toward locations that are cheap to protect and away from important areas for biodiversity. Here we use data on the distribution of protected areas and threatened terrestrial birds, mammals, and amphibians to assess current and possible future coverage of these species under the convention. We discover that 17% of the 4,118 threatened vertebrates are not found in a single protected area and that fully 85% are not adequately covered (i.e., to a level consistent with their likely persistence). Using systematic conservation planning, we show that expanding protected areas to reach 17% coverage by protecting the cheapest land, even if ecoregionally representative, would increase the number of threatened vertebrates covered by only 6%. However, the nonlinear relationship between the cost of acquiring land and species coverage means that fivefold more threatened vertebrates could be adequately covered for only 1.5 times the cost of the cheapest solution, if cost efficiency and threatened vertebrates are both incorporated into protected area decision making. These results are robust to known errors in the vertebrate range maps. The Convention on Biological Diversity targets may stimulate major expansion of the global protected area estate. If this expansion is to secure a future for imperiled species, new protected areas must be sited more strategically than is presently the case.

          Author Summary

          Under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), governments have agreed to ambitious targets for expanding the global protected area network that could drive the greatest surge in new protected areas in history. They have also agreed to arrest the decline of known threatened species. However, existing protected areas perform poorly for coverage of threatened species, with only 15% of threatened vertebrates being adequately represented. Moreover, we find that if future protected area expansion continues in a business-as-usual fashion, threatened species coverage will increase only marginally. This is because low-cost priorities for meeting the CBD targets have little overlap with priorities for threatened species coverage. Here we propose a method for averting this outcome, by linking threatened species coverage to protected area expansion. Our analyses clearly demonstrate that considerable increases in protected area coverage of species could be achieved at minimal additional cost. Exploiting this opportunity will require directly linking the CBD targets on protected areas and threatened species, thereby formalizing the interdependence of these key commitments.

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          Most cited references 19

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          Systematic conservation planning.

          The realization of conservation goals requires strategies for managing whole landscapes including areas allocated to both production and protection. Reserves alone are not adequate for nature conservation but they are the cornerstone on which regional strategies are built. Reserves have two main roles. They should sample or represent the biodiversity of each region and they should separate this biodiversity from processes that threaten its persistence. Existing reserve systems throughout the world contain a biased sample of biodiversity, usually that of remote places and other areas that are unsuitable for commercial activities. A more systematic approach to locating and designing reserves has been evolving and this approach will need to be implemented if a large proportion of today's biodiversity is to exist in a future of increasing numbers of people and their demands on natural resources.
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            Global biodiversity: indicators of recent declines.

            In 2002, world leaders committed, through the Convention on Biological Diversity, to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. We compiled 31 indicators to report on progress toward this target. Most indicators of the state of biodiversity (covering species' population trends, extinction risk, habitat extent and condition, and community composition) showed declines, with no significant recent reductions in rate, whereas indicators of pressures on biodiversity (including resource consumption, invasive alien species, nitrogen pollution, overexploitation, and climate change impacts) showed increases. Despite some local successes and increasing responses (including extent and biodiversity coverage of protected areas, sustainable forest management, policy responses to invasive alien species, and biodiversity-related aid), the rate of biodiversity loss does not appear to be slowing.
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              Status and trends of amphibian declines and extinctions worldwide.

              The first global assessment of amphibians provides new context for the well-publicized phenomenon of amphibian declines. Amphibians are more threatened and are declining more rapidly than either birds or mammals. Although many declines are due to habitat loss and overutilization, other, unidentified processes threaten 48% of rapidly declining species and are driving species most quickly to extinction. Declines are nonrandom in terms of species' ecological preferences, geographic ranges, and taxonomic associations and are most prevalent among Neotropical montane, stream-associated species. The lack of conservation remedies for these poorly understood declines means that hundreds of amphibian species now face extinction.

                Author and article information

                Role: Academic Editor
                PLoS Biol
                PLoS Biol
                PLoS Biology
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                June 2014
                24 June 2014
                : 12
                : 6
                [1 ]Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science and the School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia
                [2 ]School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
                [3 ]Global Conservation Program, Wildlife Conservation Society, New York, New York, United States of America
                [4 ]Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Ecosystem Sciences, EcoSci Precinct, Dutton Pk, Australia
                [5 ]International Union for Conservation of Nature, Gland, Switzerland
                [6 ]World Agroforestry Center, University of the Philippines Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines
                [7 ]School of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia
                [8 ]BirdLife International, Cambridge, United Kingdom
                [9 ]Global Mammal Assessment Program, Department of Biology and Biotechnologies, Sapienza Università di Roma, Rome, Italy
                [10 ]Department of Biology and Department of Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America
                [11 ]Centre for Tropical Water & Aquatic Ecosystem Research, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia
                [12 ]Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Silwood Park, United Kingdom
                [13 ]Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom
                [14 ]School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
                Australian National University, Australia
                Author notes

                The authors have declared no competing interests exist.

                The author(s) have made the following declarations about their contributions: Conceived and designed the experiments: OV RAF DBS JC TB LJ MV SHMB HPP RJS JEMW. Performed the experiments: OV DBS MDM TI DOG JEMW. Analyzed the data: OV DBS JEMW. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: CR. Wrote the paper: OV RAF DBS JC TB MDM TI LJ DOG HPP CR RJS MV JEMW.


                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Pages: 7
                This research was funded by the Australian Research Council through the grant DP110102872 to OV. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Research Article
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Ecology and Environmental Sciences
                Conservation Science

                Life sciences


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