Environmental Modeling & Assessment

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 215–228 | Cite as

The SITES reserve selection system: A critical review

  • Douglas T. Fischer
  • Richard L. Church

Numerous models have been put forth to help with the growing demand for the establishment of biodiversity reserves. One site selection model that has been used in several recent studies is SITES [S.J. Andelman, I. Ball, F.W. Davis and D.M. Stoms, SITES V 1.0: an analytical toolbox for designing ecoregional conservation portfolios, Unpublished manual prepared for the nature conservancy, 1999, 1–43. (available at]. SITES includes two heuristic solvers: based on Greedy and Simulated Annealing. We discuss the formulation of the SITES model, present a new formulation for that problem, and solve a number of test problems optimally using off-the-shelf software. We compared our optimal results with the SITES Simulated Annealing heuristic and found that SITES frequently returns significantly suboptimal solutions. Our results add further support to the argument, started by Underhill [L.G. Underhill, Optimal and suboptimal reserve selection algorithms, Biol. Conserv. 70 (1994) 85–87], continuing through Rodrigues and Gaston [A.S.L. Rodrigues and K.J. Gaston, Optimization in reserve selection procedures – why not?, Biol. Conserv. 107 (2002) 123–129], for greater integration of optimal methods in the reserve design/selection literature.


reserve site selection optimization integer programming heuristics model formulation Simulated Annealing 



During this work, Douglas Fischer was supported in part by grants from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. We would like to acknowledge the support of the Western Ecological Research Center of the U.S. Geological Survey and thank Judd Howell and Deborah Maxwell there. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also provided support. We would also like to thank Frank Davis, David Stoms, and Chris Pyke for providing data and comments. Finally, thanks are due to both Pete Stine and Klaus Barber of the U.S. Forest Service for their help and support. The comments of Justin Williams and three anonymous reviewers were very helpful in improving this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geography/National Center for Geographic Information and AnalysisUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

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