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Ecol Appl. 2006 Oct;16(5):1660-73.

Reserve networks based on richness hotspots and representation vary with scale.

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Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins 80523, USA.


While the importance of spatial scale in ecology is well established, few studies have investigated the impact of data grain on conservation planning outcomes. In this study, we compared species richness hotspot and representation networks developed at five grain sizes. We used species distribution maps for mammals and birds developed by the Arizona and New Mexico Gap Analysis Programs (GAP) to produce 1-km2, 100-kmn2, 625-km2, 2500-km2, and 10,000-km2 grid cell resolution distribution maps. We used these distribution maps to generate species richness and hotspot (95th quantile) maps for each taxon in each state. Species composition information at each grain size was used to develop two types of representation networks using the reserve selection software MARXAN. Reserve selection analyses were restricted to Arizona birds due to considerable computation requirements. We used MARXAN to create best reserve networks based on the minimum area required to represent each species at least once and equal area networks based on irreplaceability values. We also measured the median area of each species' distribution included in hotspot (mammals and birds of Arizona and New Mexico) and irreplaceability (Arizona birds) networks across all species. Mean area overlap between richness hotspot reserves identified at the five grain sizes was 29% (grand mean for four within-taxon/state comparisons), mean overlap for irreplaceability reserve networks was 32%, and mean overlap for best reserve networks was 53%. Hotspots for mammals and birds showed low overlap with a mean of 30%. Comparison of hotspots and irreplaceability networks showed very low overlap with a mean of 13%. For hotspots, median species distribution area protected within reserves declined monotonically from a high of 11% for 1-km2 networks down to 6% for 10,000-km2 networks. Irreplaceability networks showed a similar, but more variable, pattern of decline. This work clearly shows that map resolution has a profound effect on conservation planning outcomes and that hotspot and representation outcomes may be strikingly dissimilar. Thus, conservation planning is scale dependent, such that reserves developed using coarse-grained data do not subsume fine-grained reserves. Moreover, preserving both full species representation and species rich areas may require combined reserve design strategies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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