Journal of Biosciences

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 421–435 | Cite as

The principle of complementarity in the design of reserve networks to conserve biodiversity: A preliminary history

  • James Justus
  • Sahotra SarkarEmail author


Explicit, quantitative procedures for identifying biodiversity priority areas are replacing the often ad hoc procedures used in the past to design networks of reserves to conserve biodiversity. This change facilitates more informed choices by policy makers, and thereby makes possible greater satisfaction of conservation goals with increased efficiency. A key feature of these procedures is the use of the principle of complementarity, which ensures that areas chosen for inclusion in a reserve network complement those already selected. This paper sketches the historical development of the principle of complementarity and its applications in practical policy decisions. In the first section a brief account is given of the circumstances out of which concerns for more explicit systematic methods for the assessment of the conservation value of different areas arose. The second section details the emergence of the principle of complementarity in four independent contexts. The third section consists of case studies of the use of the principle of complementarity to make practical policy decisions in Australasia, Africa, and America. In the last section, an assessment is made of the extent to which the principle of complementarity transformed the practice of conservation biology by introducing new standards of rigor and explicitness.


Complementarity history of conservation biology reserve network design 


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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biodiversity and Biocultural Conservation Laboratory, Program in the History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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