Lawler, J.J., D. White, and L.L. Master. 2003. Integrating representation and vulnerability: two approaches for prioritizing areas for conservation. Ecological Applications 13(6)1762-1772. WED-02-156
Reserves protect biodiversity by ameliorating the threats to the persistence of populations. Methods for efficient, systematic reserve selection have generally been designed to maximize the protection of biodiversity while minimizing the costs of reserves. These techniques have not directly addressed the factors threatening species at specific sites. By incorporating measures of site vulnerability into reserve selection procedures, conservation planners can prioritize sites based on both representing biodiversity and the immediacy of factors threatening it. Here we develop two complementary approaches for identifying areas for conservation based on species composition and potential threats facing the species. These approaches build on two established methods of systematic reserve selection. The first approach involves mapping irreplaceability (a statistic derived from reserve selection theory that measurers the potential importance of a site for protecting all species) and the degree to which the area is vulnerable to threats from three basic anthropogenic factors (the percentages of a site devoted to agriculture, to urban and suburban development, and to open mines). We classified areas with respect to both irreplaceability and the three indicators of vulnerability, producing a continuous ranking of all sites based on these factors. Our second approach was to incorporate site vulnerability into a reserve selection algorithm. This approach allowed us to locate those sets of sites that protected all species and were most likely to be threatened by human activities. These two analyses can provide regional-scale guidance for conservation in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, and they demonstrate two potential tools for solving complex conservation-planning problems.