, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 309-326

Representing biodiversity: Data and procedures for identifying priority areas for conservation

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Biodiversity priority areas together should represent the biodiversity of the region they are situated in. To achieve this, biodiversity has to be measured, biodiversity goals have to be set and methods for implementing those goals have to be applied. Each of these steps is discussed. Because it is impossible to measure all of biodiversity, biodiversity surrogates have to be used. Examples are taxa sub-sets, species assemblages and environmental domains. Each of these has different strengths and weaknesses, which are described and evaluated. In real-world priority setting, some combination of these is usually employed. While a desirable goal might be to sample all of biodiversity from genotypes to ecosystems, an achievable goal is to represent, at some agreed level, each of the biodiversity features chosen as surrogates. Explicit systematic procedures for implementing such a goal are described. These procedures use complementarity, a measure of the contribution each area in a region makes to the conservation goal, to estimate irreplaceability and flexibility, measures of the extent to which areas can be substituted for one another in order to take competing land uses into account. Persistence and vulnerability, which also play an important role in the priority setting process, are discussed briefly.