Designing large-scale conservation corridors for pattern and process

Mathieu Rouget, Richard M. Cowling, Amanda T. Lombard, Andrew T. Knight, Graham I.H. Kerley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

198 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A major challenge for conservation assessments is to identify priority areas that incorporate biological patterns and processes. Because large-scale processes are mostly oriented along environmental gradients, we propose to accommodate them by designing regional-scale corridors to capture these gradients. Based on systematic conservation planning principles such as representation and persistence, we identified large tracts of untransformed land (i.e., conservation corridors) for conservation that would achieve biodiversity targets for pattern and process in the Subtropical Thicket Biome of South Africa. We combined least-cost path analysis with a target-driven algorithm to identify the best option for capturing key environmental gradients while considering biodiversity targets and conservation opportunities and constraints. We identified seven conservation corridors on the basis of subtropical thicket representation, habitat transformation and degradation, wildlife suitability, irreplaceability of vegetation types, protected area networks, and future land-use pressures. These conservation corridors covered 21.1% of the planning region (ranging from 600 to 5200 km2) and successfully achieved targets for biological processes and to a lesser extent for vegetation types. The corridors we identified are intended to promote the persistence of ecological processes (gradients and fixed processes) and fulfill half of the biodiversity pattern target. We compared the conservation corridors with a simplified corridor design consisting of a fixed-width buffer along major rivers. Conservation corridors outperformed river buffers in seven out of eight criteria. Our corridor design can provide a tool for quantifying trade-offs between various criteria (biodiversity pattern and process, implementation constraints and opportunities). A land-use management model was developed to facilitate implementation of conservation actions within these corridors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-561
Number of pages13
JournalConservation Biology
Volume20
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006
Externally publishedYes

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