Browsing by Author "Arponen, Anni"

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  • Arponen, Anni (Helsingin yliopisto, 2009)
    One major reason for the global decline of biodiversity is habitat loss and fragmentation. Conservation areas can be designed to reduce biodiversity loss, but as resources are limited, conservation efforts need to be prioritized in order to achieve best possible outcomes. The field of systematic conservation planning developed as a response to opportunistic approaches to conservation that often resulted in biased representation of biological diversity. The last two decades have seen the development of increasingly sophisticated methods that account for information about biodiversity conservation goals (benefits), economical considerations (costs) and socio-political constraints. In this thesis I focus on two general topics related to systematic conservation planning. First, I address two aspects of the question about how biodiversity features should be valued. (i) I investigate the extremely important but often neglected issue of differential prioritization of species for conservation. Species prioritization can be based on various criteria, and is always goal-dependent, but can also be implemented in a scientifically more rigorous way than what is the usual practice. (ii) I introduce a novel framework for conservation prioritization, which is based on continuous benefit functions that convert increasing levels of biodiversity feature representation to increasing conservation value using the principle that more is better. Traditional target-based systematic conservation planning is a special case of this approach, in which a step function is used for the benefit function. We have further expanded the benefit function framework for area prioritization to address issues such as protected area size and habitat vulnerability. In the second part of the thesis I address the application of community level modelling strategies to conservation prioritization. One of the most serious issues in systematic conservation planning currently is not the deficiency of methodology for selection and design, but simply the lack of data. Community level modelling offers a surrogate strategy that makes conservation planning more feasible in data poor regions. We have reviewed the available community-level approaches to conservation planning. These range from simplistic classification techniques to sophisticated modelling and selection strategies. We have also developed a general and novel community level approach to conservation prioritization that significantly improves on methods that were available before. This thesis introduces further degrees of realism into conservation planning methodology. The benefit function -based conservation prioritization framework largely circumvents the problematic phase of target setting, and allowing for trade-offs between species representation provides a more flexible and hopefully more attractive approach to conservation practitioners. The community-level approach seems highly promising and should prove valuable for conservation planning especially in data poor regions. Future work should focus on integrating prioritization methods to deal with multiple aspects in combination influencing the prioritization process, and further testing and refining the community level strategies using real, large datasets.