Methods for identifying spatially referenced conservation needs and opportunities
Sykora-Bodie, ST and Alvarez-Romero, JG and Adams, VM and Gurney, GG and Cleary, J and Pressey, RL and Ban, NC, Methods for identifying spatially referenced conservation needs and opportunities, Biological Conservation, 260 Article 109138. ISSN 0006-3207 (2021) [Refereed Article]
Protected area coverage is expanding rapidly in response to threats such as habitat degradation, resource overexploitation, and climate change. Given limited resources, conservation scientists have developed systematic methods for identifying where it is most efficient to protect biodiversity. To improve the outcomes of protected areas, planners have also sought to incorporate non-ecological data into protected area design, including data on conservation opportunity. Our study expands this literature using expert elicitation, participatory mapping, and a case study of the Southern Ocean to identify areas of conservation need and opportunity. We consider the spatial variation between need and opportunity, examine how socioeconomic and political factors influence the selection of areas, and investigate barriers to reaching consensus and establishing marine protected areas along the Western Antarctic Peninsula. We found that, while experts readily identified areas of conservation need and opportunity, most did not easily distinguish between the different types of opportunity proposed in the literature (existing, potential, and fleeting). Geographically, there were significant areas of overlap between need and opportunity, but areas of need were more restricted and specific, whereas areas of opportunity were more expansive and general. Biophysical and socioeconomic factors were most important in motivating the selection of areas of opportunity, followed by geopolitical and then scientific factors. Our approach to data collection and planning can provide insights into tradeoffs between ecological needs and opportunities for taking action, and therefore aid in identifying and reducing barriers to designating effective marine protected areas.