Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 1255–1281 | Cite as

Nature conservation: priority-setting needs a global change

  • Lisa Freudenberger
  • Peter Hobson
  • Martin Schluck
  • Stefan Kreft
  • Katrin Vohland
  • Henning Sommer
  • Steffen Reichle
  • Christoph Nowicki
  • Wilhelm Barthlott
  • Pierre L. Ibisch
Original Paper


The limited resources available for the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services call for prioritisation schemes. For instance, in the process of systematic conservation planning site selection is partly determined by efficiency gains. In this paper we present an alternative method for global spatial priority-setting based on ecological indicators, combined with social and economic conditions that influence the effectiveness of conservation, and measures for the long-term persistence of biodiversity. In the analysis the assumption made is that nature conservation should prioritize the effective maintenance of functional ecosystems that do not only provide the most ecosystem services but are also more likely to have a high adaptive capacity towards unavoidable environmental change. Furthermore, the effectiveness and permanence of conservation projects is tied to certain socioeconomic and political conditions that, as we suggest, should be evaluated as part of the conservation priority-setting process. We propose three new priority categories: eco-functionally wise (EcoWise), socioeconomically wise (SocioWise) and proactive allocation of conservation resources considering future climate change (ClimateWise) expressed as indices based on 16 different indicators. Analysing the combined effects of these three categories (EcoSocioClimateWise), in a spatially explicit way highlights the importance of tropical, subtropical but also some temperate and boreal forest areas all of which are characterized by high values of vegetation density, tree height and carbon storage. Our recommendations for policy makers prompt a shift in conservation planning towards advocating the use of ecological and socioeconomic indicators in combination with proxies for the vulnerability to future climate change impacts.


Proactive conservation planning Climate change Biodiversity Protected areas Interdisciplinary conservation biology Insensa GIS 



This research project is supported by the Ministry of Science, Research and Culture of Brandenburg through funds of the Europäischen Sozialfonds and the Land Brandenburg. This project is also funded by the Academy of Sciences and Literature Mainz, Germany (“Biodiversity in Change” Program). It was carried out within the framework of a) the cooperative graduate research program “Adaptive Nature Conservation under Climate Change” of Potsdam University, the University for Sustainable Development Eberswalde and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany and b) the early stage researchers group “Regional Adaptation to Climate Change—Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity”. We thank the anonymous reviewers for valuable suggestions as well as Wolfgang Cramer, Gerold Kier, Jens Mutke, Monika Bertzky and Juliane Geyer for comments on drafts of this paper. We would also like to thank Björn Reu of the Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena (Germany), Michael Lefsky of the Department of Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship of the University of Colorado (USA), Patrick Gonzalez of the National Park Service in Washington (USA), Robin Naidoo, WWF, Washington (USA) for the provision of data.

Supplementary material

10531_2012_428_MOESM1_ESM.doc (54 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 54 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (DOC 72 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (DOC 40 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa Freudenberger
    • 1
  • Peter Hobson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Martin Schluck
    • 1
  • Stefan Kreft
    • 1
  • Katrin Vohland
    • 3
    • 4
  • Henning Sommer
    • 5
  • Steffen Reichle
    • 6
  • Christoph Nowicki
    • 1
  • Wilhelm Barthlott
    • 7
  • Pierre L. Ibisch
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Econics and Ecosystem ManagementUniversity for Sustainable Development Eberswalde, Faculty of Forest and EnvironmentEberswaldeGermany
  2. 2.Writtle CollegeChelmsfordUK
  3. 3.Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)PotsdamGermany
  4. 4.Leibniz Institute for Research on Evolution and BiodiversityMuseum für Naturkunde BerlinBerlinGermany
  5. 5.Centre for Development Research (ZEF)BonnGermany
  6. 6.Fundación para la Conservación del Bosque ChiquitanoSanta Cruz de la SierraBolivia
  7. 7.Nees Institute for Biodiversity of PlantsBonnGermany

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