Local communities contribute to broader biodiversity protection goals when managing their immediate environment when they establish protected areas. However, their efforts are geographically constrained and often uncoordinated. We compare protected areas established by local communities through the direct democracy process in California, US, to protected areas created and managed by two conservation actors working over larger spatial scales, one private and one public. Despite being geographically constrained to smaller spatial scales, protected areas established by local communities were as effective as those established by larger scale conservation actors at representing different habitat types. However, local ballot protected areas tended to protect more common species. All three protected area networks often performed no better than random in terms of siting protected areas to support narrow range species and rare habitats. Improved accounting of local communities’ protection efforts would allow organizations with greater funding flexibility to focus their efforts to increase representation of rarer species and habitats in protected area systems.
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We thank organizations who provided data to enable this study (Online Resource 7); CDFW; and colleagues at University of Tennessee, Knoxville; University of California, Davis; Resources for the Future; and The Nature Conservancy for useful discussions. The views expressed by Chad Stachowiak are his own and do not represent the Natural Resources Conservation Service or the United States Government.
This material is based on work partially supported by the National Science Foundation [grant number 1413990] and USDA NIFA AFRI [grant number 2017-67023-26270].
All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by Chad Stachowiak, Benjamin Crain, and Paul R. Armsworth. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Chad Stachowiak and Paul R. Armsworth and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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Stachowiak, C., Crain, B.J., Kroetz, K. et al. Protected Areas Established by Local Communities through Direct Democracy Encompass Habitat for Species as Effectively as Protected Areas Planned over Large Spatial Scales. Environmental Management 67, 242–250 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-020-01403-4
- conservation planning
- gap analysis
- nature reserve
- open space