Historical Progress of Biodiversity Conservation in the Protected-Area System of Tasmania, Australia
Mendel, L and Kirkpatrick, JB, Historical Progress of Biodiversity Conservation in the Protected-Area System of Tasmania, Australia, Conservation Biology, 16, (6) pp. 1520-1529. ISSN 0888-8892 (2002) [Refereed Article]
The progress of biodiversity conservation is a function of the historic development of reserve systems, studies of which provide data on reservation gaps and direction for more systematic conservation planning. We used mapped plant communities as a surrogate for the globally significant biodiversity of Tasmania in an analysis of reservation status in relation to a range of conservation targets for 1937, 1970, and 1992. Before the 1970s the representation of plant communities in the Tasmanian National Park system was strongly biased toward the reservation of communities that are not economically valuable, typically those occurring in scenic alpine and subalpine areas. In 1970 >3% of economically valuable communities were reserved above 15% of their pre-European area, compared with over 17% of communities without economic value. These statistics support the "worthless lands" hypothesis. Between 1970 and 1992 there was a dramatic rise in the representation of communities in the reserve system in response to a change in motivations for reserve establishment and the availability of gap analyses for many plant communities and species. This increase included large increases in the reservation of both economically valuable and noneconomically valuable plant communities. In 1992, one-third of the plant communities in Tasmania had 15% of their pre-European area represented in the reserve system, with over 20% of economically valuable communities and 58% of noneconomically valuable communities having over 15% of their pre-European area reserved. Although gaps in the reservation of forest communities have been partially filled since 1992, some treeless lowland communities are still highly depleted and unreserved. The reserve system in Tasmania, however, is closer to a representative system of biodiversity than in most other countries.