Scaling up from protected areas in England: The value of establishing large conservation areas

Assaf Shwartz, Zoe G. Davies, Nicholas A. Macgregor, Humphrey Q.P. Crick, Donna Clarke, Felix Eigenbrod, Catherine Gonner, Chris T. Hill, Andrew T. Knight, Kristian Metcalfe, Patrick E. Osborne, Ben Phalan, Robert J. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Protected areas (PAs) are vital for conserving biodiversity, but many PA networks consist of fragmented habitat patches that poorly represent species and ecosystems. One possible solution is to create conservation landscapes that surround and link these PAs. This often involves working with a range of landowners and agencies to develop large-scale conservation initiatives (LSCIs). These initiatives are being championed by both government and civil society, but we lack data on whether such landscape-level approaches overcome the limitations of more traditional PA networks. Here we expand on a previous gap analysis of England to explore to what extent LSCIs improve the representation of different ecoregions, land-cover types and elevation zones compared to the current PA system. Our results show the traditional PA system covers 6.37% of England, an addition of only 0.07% since 2001, and that it is an ecologically unrepresentative network that mostly protects agriculturally unproductive land. Including LSCIs in the analysis increases the land for conservation more than tenfold and reduces these representation biases. However, only 24% of land within LSCIs is currently under conservation management, mostly funded through agri-environment schemes, and limited monitoring data mean that their contribution to conservation objectives is unclear. There is also a considerable spatial overlap between LSCIs, which are managed by different organisations with different conservation objectives. Our analysis is the first to show how Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECMs) can increase the representativeness of conservation area networks, and highlights opportunities for increased collaboration between conservation organisations and engagement with landowners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-287
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


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