In systematic conservation planning, species distribution data for all sites in a planning area are used to prioritize each site in terms of the site's importance toward meeting the goal of species representation. But comprehensive species data are not available in most planning areas and would be expensive to acquire. As a shortcut, ecologists use surrogates, such as occurrences of birds or another well-surveyed taxon, or land types defined from remotely sensed data, in the hope that sites that represent the surrogates also represent biodiversity. Unfortunately, surrogates have not performed reliably. We propose a new type of surrogate, predicted importance, that can be developed from species data for a q% subset of sites. With species data from this subset of sites, importance can be modeled as a function of abiotic variables available at no charge for all terrestrial areas on Earth. Predicted importance can then be used as a surrogate to prioritize all sites. We tested this surrogate with 8 sets of species data. For each data set, we used a q% subset of sites to model importance as a function of abiotic variables, used the resulting function to predict importance for all sites, and evaluated the number of species in the sites with highest predicted importance. Sites with the highest predicted importance represented species efficiently for all data sets when q = 25% and for 7 of 8 data sets when q = 20%. Predicted importance requires less survey effort than direct selection for species representation and meets representation goals well compared with other surrogates currently in use. This less expensive surrogate may be useful in those areas of the world that need it most, namely tropical regions with the highest biodiversity, greatest biodiversity loss, most severe lack of inventory data, and poorly developed protected area networks.
- Conservation planning
- Species representation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation