Abstract Establishing protected areas is the primary goal and tool for preventing irreversible biodiversity loss. However, the effectiveness of protected areas that target specific species has been questioned for some time because targeting key species for conservation may impair the integral regional pool of species diversity and phylogenetic and functional diversity are seldom considered. We assessed the efficacy of protected areas in China for the conservation of phylogenetic diversity based on the ranges and phylogenies of 2279 terrestrial vertebrates. Phylogenetic and taxonomic diversity were strongly and positively correlated, and only 12.1–43.8% of priority conservation areas are currently protected. However, the patterns and coverage of phylogenetic diversity were affected when weighted by species richness. These results indicated that in China, protected areas targeting high species richness protected phylogenetic diversity well overall but failed to do so in some regions with more unique or threatened communities (e.g., coastal areas of eastern China, where severely threatened avian communities were less protected). Our results suggest that the current distribution of protected areas could be improved, although most protected areas protect both taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity.
Abstract The establishment of protected areas is a critical strategy for conserving biodiversity. Key policy directives like the Aichi targets seek to expand protected areas to 17% of Earth's land surface, with calls by some conservation biologists for much more. However, in places such as the United States, Germany, and Australia, attempts to increase protected areas are meeting strong resistance from communities, industry groups, and governments. We examined case studies of such resistance in Victoria, Australia, Bavaria, Germany, and Florida, United States. We considered 4 ways to tackle this problem. First, broaden the case for protected areas beyond nature conservation to include economic, human health, and other benefits, and translate these into a persuasive business case for protected areas. Second, better communicate the conservation values of protected areas. This should include highlighting how many species, communities, and ecosystems have been conserved by protected areas and the counterfactual (i.e., what would have been lost without protected area establishment). Third, consider zoning of activities to ensure the maintenance of effective management. Finally, remind citizens to think about conservation when they vote, including holding politicians accountable for their environmental promises. Without tackling resistance to expanding the protected estate, it will be impossible to reach conservation targets, and this will undermine attempts to stem the global extinction crisis.
Abstract Conservation decisions increasingly involve multiple environmental and social objectives, which result in complex decision contexts with high potential for trade‐offs. Improving social equity is one such objective that is often considered an enabler of successful outcomes and a virtuous ideal in itself. Despite its idealized importance in conservation policy, social equity is often highly simplified or ill‐defined and is applied uncritically. What constitutes equitable outcomes and processes is highly normative and subject to ethical deliberation. Different ethical frameworks may lead to different conceptions of equity through alternative perspectives of what is good or right. This can lead to different and potentially conflicting equity objectives in practice. We promote a more transparent, nuanced, and pluralistic conceptualization of equity in conservation decision making that particularly recognizes where multidimensional equity objectives may conflict. To help identify and mitigate ethical conflicts and avoid cases of good intentions producing bad outcomes, we encourage a more analytical incorporation of equity into conservation decision making particularly during mechanistic integration of equity objectives. We recommend that in conservation planning motivations and objectives for equity be made explicit within the problem context, methods used to incorporate equity objectives be applied with respect to stated objectives, and, should objectives dictate, evaluation of equity outcomes and adaptation of strategies be employed during policy implementation.
Abstract The use of total area protected as the predominant indicator of progress in building protected area (PA) networks is receiving growing criticism. Documenting the full dynamics of PA networks, both in terms of the gains and losses in protection, provides a much more informative approach to tracking progress. To this end, documentation of PA downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement (PADDD) has increased. Studies of PADDD events generally fail to place these losses in the context of gains in protection; therefore, they omit important elements of PA network dynamics. To address this limitation, we used a spatially explicit approach to identify every parcel of land added to and excised from the Australian terrestrial PA network and PAs that had their level of protection changed over 17 years (1997–2014). By quantifying changes in the spatial configuration of the PA network with time‐series data (spatial layers for nine separate time steps), ours is the first assessment of the dynamics (increases and decreases in area and level of protection) of a PA network and the first comprehensive assessment of PADDD in a developed country. We found that the Australian network was highly dynamic; there were 5233 changes in area or level of protection over 17 years. Against a background of enormous increases in area protected, we identified over 1500 PADDD events, which affected over one‐third of the network, which were largely the result of widespread downgrading of protection. We believe our approach provides a mechanism for robust tracking of trends in the world's PAs through the use of data from the World Database on Protected Areas. However, this will require greater transparency and improved data standards in reporting changes to PAs.
Abstract Conservation success is contingent on assessing social and environmental factors so that cost‐effective implementation of strategies and actions can be placed in a broad social–ecological context. Until now, the focus has been on how to include spatially explicit social data in conservation planning, whereas the value of different kinds of social data has received limited attention. In a regional systematic conservation planning case study in Australia, we examined the spatial concurrence of a range of spatially explicit social values and land‐use preferences collected using a public participation geographic information system and biological data. We used Zonation to integrate the social data with the biological data in a series of spatial‐prioritization scenarios to determine the effect of the different types of social data on spatial prioritization compared with biological data alone. The type of social data (i.e., conservation opportunities or constraints) significantly affected spatial prioritization outcomes. The integration of social values and land‐use preferences under different scenarios was highly variable and generated spatial prioritizations 1.2–51% different from those based on biological data alone. The inclusion of conservation‐compatible values and preferences added relatively few new areas to conservation priorities, whereas including noncompatible economic values and development preferences as costs significantly changed conservation priority areas (48.2% and 47.4%, respectively). Based on our results, a multifaceted conservation prioritization approach that combines spatially explicit social data with biological data can help conservation planners identify the type of social data to collect for more effective and feasible conservation actions.
Abstract Wilderness areas are ecologically intact landscapes predominantly free of human uses, especially industrial‐scale activities that result in substantial biophysical disturbance. This definition does not exclude land and resource use by local communities who depend on such areas for subsistence and bio‐cultural connections. Wilderness areas are important for biodiversity conservation and sustain key ecological processes and ecosystem services that underpin planetary life‐support systems. Despite these widely recognized benefits and values of wilderness, they are insufficiently protected and are consequently being rapidly eroded. There are increasing calls for multilateral environmental agreements to make a greater and more systematic contribution to wilderness conservation before it is too late. We created a global map of remaining terrestrial wilderness following the established last‐of‐the‐wild method, which identifies the 10% of areas with the lowest human pressure within each of Earth's 62 biogeographic realms and identifies the 10 largest contiguous areas and all contiguous areas >10,000 km 2 . We used our map to assess wilderness coverage by the World Heritage Convention and to identify gaps in coverage. We then identified large nationally designated protected areas with good wilderness coverage within these gaps. One‐quarter of natural and mixed (i.e., sites of both natural and cultural value) World Heritage Sites (WHS) contained wilderness (total of 545,307 km 2 ), which is approximately 1.8% of the world's wilderness extent. Many WHS had excellent wilderness coverage, for example, the Okavango Delta in Botswana (11,914 km 2 ) and the Central Suriname Nature Reserve (16,029?km 2 ). However, 22
Abstract Establishing protected areas has long been an effective conservation strategy and is often based on readily surveyed species. The potential of any freshwater taxa to be a surrogate for other aquatic groups has not been explored fully. We compiled occurrence data on 72 species of freshwater fishes, amphibians, mussels, and aquatic reptiles for the Great Plains, Wyoming (U.S.A.). We used hierarchical Bayesian multispecies mixture models and MaxEnt models to describe species’ distributions and the program Zonation to identify areas of conservation priority for each aquatic group. The landscape‐scale factors that best characterized aquatic species’ distributions differed among groups. There was low agreement and congruence among taxa‐specific conservation priorities (<20%), meaning no surrogate priority areas would include or protect the best habitats of other aquatic taxa. Common, wideranging aquatic species were included in taxa‐specific priority areas, but rare freshwater species were not included. Thus, the development of conservation priorities based on a single freshwater aquatic group would not protect all species in the other aquatic groups.
Abstract Ecological restoration has become an important strategy to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems services. To restore 15% of degraded ecosystems as stipulated by the Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi target 15, we developed a prioritization framework to identify potential priority sites for restoration in Mexico, a megadiverse country. We used the most current biological and environmental data on Mexico to assess areas of biological importance and restoration feasibility at national scale and engaged stakeholders and experts throughout the process. We integrated 8 criteria into 2 components (i.e., biological importance and restoration feasibility) in a spatial multicriteria analysis and generated 11 scenarios to test the effect of assigning different component weights. The priority restoration sites were distributed across all terrestrial ecosystems of Mexico; 64.1% were in degraded natural vegetation and 6% were in protected areas. Our results provide a spatial guide to where restoration could enhance the persistence of species of conservation concern and vulnerable ecosystems while maximizing the likelihood of restoration success. Such spatial prioritization is a first step in informing policy makers and restoration planners where to focus local and large‐scale restoration efforts, which should additionally incorporate social and monetary cost–benefit considerations.
Abstract The Burmese roofed turtle (Batagur trivittata) is one of the world's most endangered turtles. Only one wild population remains in Myanmar. There are thought to be 12 breeding turtles in the wild. Conservation efforts for the species have raised >700 captive turtles since 2002, predominantly from eggs collected in the wild. We collected tissue samples from 445 individuals (approximately 40% of the turtles’ remaining global population), applied double‐digest restriction‐site associated DNA sequencing (ddRAD‐Seq), and obtained approximately 1500 unlinked genome‐wide single nucleotide polymorphisms. Individuals fell into 5 distinct genetic clusters, 4 of which represented full‐sib families. We inferred a low effective population size (≤10 individuals) but did not detect signs of severe inbreeding, possibly because the population bottleneck occurred recently. Two groups of 30 individuals from the captive pool that were the most genetically diverse were reintroduced to the wild, leading to an increase in the number of fertile eggs ( n = 27) in the wild. Another 25 individuals, selected based on the same criteria, were transferred to the Singapore Zoo as an assurance colony. Our study demonstrates that the research‐to‐application gap in conservation can be bridged through application of cutting‐edge genomic methods.
Abstract The high demand for conservation work is creating a need for conservation‐focused training of scientists. Although many people with postsecondary degrees in biology are finding careers outside academia, many programs and mentors continue to prepare students to follow‐in‐the‐footsteps of their professors. Unfortunately, information regarding how to prepare for today's conservation‐based job market is limited in detail and scope. This problem is complicated by the differing needs of conservation organizations in both economically developed and developing regions worldwide. To help scientists identify the tools needed for conservation positions worldwide, we reviewed the current global conservation job market and identified skills required for success in careers in academia, government, nonprofit, and for‐profit organizations. We also interviewed conservation professionals across all conservation sectors. Positions in nonprofit organizations were the most abundant, whereas academic jobs were only 10% of the current job market. The most common skills required across sectors were a strong disciplinary background, followed by analytical and technical skills. Academic positions differed the most from other types of positions in that they emphasized teaching as a top skill. Nonacademic jobs emphasized the need for excellent written and oral communication, as well as project‐management experience. Furthermore, we found distinct differences across job locations. Positions in developing countries emphasized language and interpersonal skills, whereas positions in countries with advanced economies focused on publication history and technical skills. Our results were corroborated by the conservation professionals we interviewed. Based on our results, we compiled a nondefinitive list of conservation‐based training programs that are likely