Research Article

Landscape Ecology

, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 683-695

First online:

Spatial scale effects on conservation network design: trade-offs and omissions in regional versus local scale planning

  • Patrick R. HuberAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Design, University of California, Davis Email author 
  • , Steven E. GrecoAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Design, University of California, Davis
  • , James H. ThorneAffiliated withInformation Center for the Environment, University of California, Davis

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Ecological patterns and processes operate at a variety of spatial scales. Those which are regional in nature may not be effectively captured through the combination of conservation plans derived at the local level, where land use planning frequently takes place. Conversely, regional conservation plans may not identify resources important for conservation of intraregional ecological variation. We compare modeled conservation networks derived at regional and local scales from the same area in order to analyze the impact of scale effects on conservation planning. Using the MARXAN reserve selection algorithm and least cost corridor analysis we identified a potential regional conservation network for the Central Valley ecoregion of California, USA, from which we extracted those portions found within five individual counties. We then conducted the same analysis for each of the five counties. An overlay of the results from the two scales shows a general pattern of large differences in the identified networks. Especially noteworthy are the trade-offs and omissions evident at both scales of analysis and the disparateness of the identified corridors that connect core reserves. The results suggest that planning efforts limited to one scale will neglect biodiversity patterns and ecological processes that are important at other scales. An intersection of results from the two scales can potentially be used to prioritize areas for conservation found to be important at several spatial scales.


Connectivity Reserve selection Conservation planning Central Valley California Ecoregion MARXAN Scale effects Corridor