The Roles of Spatial Heterogeneity and Ecological Processes in Conservation Planning

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In this chapter we ask the question: To what extent does an understanding of landscape spatial heterogeneity inform conservation decisions? We answer this question in the context of two central decision-making fields within conservation biology: systematic conservation planning and population viability analysis.The conservation planning principles of comprehensiveness and representativeness are fundamentally reliant on data and concepts of compositional landscape heterogeneity. The principle of adequacy is not accommodated in conservation planning very well and it relies on an understanding of the configurational heterogeneity of the landscape. A major challenge for conservation planning scientists is to develop theory and decision support tools that incorporate ideas of population viability and spatially explicit ecological processes. Population viability analysis invariably includes spatial population processes, and as a field has largely focused on the importance of the configurational heterogeneity of landscapes. We argue that this focus might only be justified when the scale of planning coincides with either the scale of habitat heterogeneity or the scale at which small populations operate. Integrating population viability analysis into conservation planning, and showing a balanced interest in compositional and configurational heterogeneity, are important future challenges.