Using current protection status to assess conservation priorities

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Biological Sciences

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Several recent studies base assessment of conservation priorities primarily on the current protection status of vertebrate species and vegetation communities. Our objective was to compare prioritization using current protection status alone with prioritization using more traditional methods. We mapped land cover of Washington State at a 100 ha minimum mapping unit using 1991 Landsat satellite thematic mapper imagery, and modeled the distributions of all breeding terrestrial vertebrates in the State using the land cover map. We determined the level of protection for each vertebrate species based on its current modeled distribution and for vegetation communities based on their current mapped distribution. We also compiled subjective lists of vertebrate species most at risk from human activities and vertebrate species most well-adapted to human activities, and we used information about potential vegetation and historic conditions to determine past anthropogenic conversion of vegetation communities. We concluded that, while knowledge of current protection status is critical for assessing conservation priorities, use of such information without ecological context (potential vegetation and historic conditions for vegetation and habitat requirements, population trends, and historic distribution for vertebrates) can give results that would direct scarce conservation resources to species and communities unlikely to need protection in the foreseeable future.


This article was originally published in Biological Conservation. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Biological Conservation


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