, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 299-309

Nodes, networks, and MUMs: Preserving diversity at all scales

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Abstract

The present focus of practical conservation efforts is limited in scope. This narrowness results in an inability to evaluate and manage phenomena that operate at large spatiotemporal scales. Whereas real ecological phenomena function in a space-time mosaic across a full hierarchy of biological entities and processes, current conservation strategies address a limited spectrum of this complexity. Conservation typically is static (time-limited), concentrates on the habitat content rather than the landscape context of protected areas, evaluates relatively homogeneous communities instead of heterogeneous landscapes, and directs attention to particular species populations and/or the aggregate statistic of species diversity. Insufficient attention has been given to broad ecological patterns and processes and to the conservation of species in natural relative abundance patterns (native diversity).

The authors present a conceptual scheme that evaluates not only habitat content within protected areas, but also the landscape context in which each preserve exists. Nodes of concentrated ecological value exist in each landscape at all levels in the biological hierarchy. Integration of these high-quality nodes into a functional network is possible through the establishment of a system of interconnected multiple-use modules (MUMs). The MUM network protects and buffers important ecological entities and phenomena, while encouraging movement of individuals, species, nutrients, energy, and even habitat patches across space and time. An example is presented for the southeastern USA (south Georgia-north Florida), that uses riparian and coastal corridors to interconnect existing protected areas. This scheme will facilitate reintroduction and preservation of wide-ranging species such as the Florida panther, and help reconcile species-level and ecosystem-level conservation approaches.