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      High and Far: Biases in the Location of Protected Areas

      1 , * , 2

      PLoS ONE

      Public Library of Science

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          Abstract

          Background

          About an eighth of the earth's land surface is in protected areas (hereafter “PAs”), most created during the 20 th century. Natural landscapes are critical for species persistence and PAs can play a major role in conservation and in climate policy. Such contributions may be harder than expected to implement if new PAs are constrained to the same kinds of locations that PAs currently occupy.

          Methodology/Principal Findings

          Quantitatively extending the perception that PAs occupy “rock and ice”, we show that across 147 nations PA networks are biased towards places that are unlikely to face land conversion pressures even in the absence of protection. We test each country's PA network for bias in elevation, slope, distances to roads and cities, and suitability for agriculture. Further, within each country's set of PAs, we also ask if the level of protection is biased in these ways. We find that the significant majority of national PA networks are biased to higher elevations, steeper slopes and greater distances to roads and cities. Also, within a country, PAs with higher protection status are more biased than are the PAs with lower protection statuses.

          Conclusions/Significance

          In sum, PAs are biased towards where they can least prevent land conversion (even if they offer perfect protection). These globally comprehensive results extend findings from nation-level analyses. They imply that siting rules such as the Convention on Biological Diversity's 2010 Target [to protect 10% of all ecoregions] might raise PA impacts if applied at the country level. In light of the potential for global carbon-based payments for avoided deforestation or REDD, these results suggest that attention to threat could improve outcomes from the creation and management of PAs.

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          Most cited references 12

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          Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities.

          Conservationists are far from able to assist all species under threat, if only for lack of funding. This places a premium on priorities: how can we support the most species at the least cost? One way is to identify 'biodiversity hotspots' where exceptional concentrations of endemic species are undergoing exceptional loss of habitat. As many as 44% of all species of vascular plants and 35% of all species in four vertebrate groups are confined to 25 hotspots comprising only 1.4% of the land surface of the Earth. This opens the way for a 'silver bullet' strategy on the part of conservation planners, focusing on these hotspots in proportion to their share of the world's species at risk.
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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 conservation priorities.

              The location of and threats to biodiversity are distributed unevenly, so prioritization is essential to minimize biodiversity loss. To address this need, biodiversity conservation organizations have proposed nine templates of global priorities over the past decade. Here, we review the concepts, methods, results, impacts, and challenges of these prioritizations of conservation practice within the theoretical irreplaceability/vulnerability framework of systematic conservation planning. Most of the templates prioritize highly irreplaceable regions; some are reactive (prioritizing high vulnerability), and others are proactive (prioritizing low vulnerability). We hope this synthesis improves understanding of these prioritization approaches and that it results in more efficient allocation of geographically flexible conservation funding.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                1932-6203
                2009
                14 December 2009
                : 4
                : 12
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America
                [2 ]Public Policy, Economics, and Environment, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America
                Umea University, Sweden
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: LNJ AP. Performed the experiments: LNJ AP. Analyzed the data: LNJ AP. Wrote the paper: LNJ AP.

                Article
                09-PONE-RA-12662R1
                10.1371/journal.pone.0008273
                2788247
                20011603
                Joppa, Pfaff. 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.
                Counts
                Pages: 6
                Categories
                Research Article
                Ecology/Community Ecology and Biodiversity
                Ecology/Conservation and Restoration Ecology
                Ecology/Ecosystem Ecology
                Ecology/Spatial and Landscape Ecology

                Uncategorized

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