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J Environ Manage. 2003 Feb;67(2):145-60.

A multi-criteria targeting approach to neutral grassland conservation.

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  • 1Department of Biological and Molecular Sciences Geographical Information Systems and Habitats Research Group, Oxford Brookes University, Gipsy Lane Campus, Headington, Oxford OX3 0BP, UK.


Resources for creating and managing rare habitats are limited, and a targeting approach aimed at identifying the most viable sites for habitat conservation is therefore desirable. This study developed a multi-criteria targeting approach to site conservation for two rare grassland types, based on a suite of biotic and abiotic factors managed within a Geographical Information System. A number of biotic and abiotic criteria were assessed to evaluate the biodiversity status of grassland sites. Biotic factors included species diversity, species richness and species rarity; and abiotic factors included patch area, position in the ecological unit and the influence of surrounding land use. Each criterion was given equal weighting and a final biodiversity value for each patch was calculated; the patch with the highest cumulative rank score was deemed the patch with the greatest biodiversity. Each site was then examined in relation to agricultural land under the existing management prescriptions of the Upper Thames Tributaries Environmentally Sensitive Area (UTTESA). Sites identified with high biodiversity potential, but currently not included under management prescriptions, were targeted for future inclusion in the ESA scheme. The targeting approach demonstrated how the national Lowland Meadows habitat action plan creation target of 500 ha could be achieved in the UTTESA. The fact that this target figure was so easily attained within this study area highlighted the possible underestimation of national habitat creation targets.

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