Complementarity and the selection of nature reserves: algorithms and the origins of conservation planning, 1980–1995

Abstract

This paper reconstructs the history of the introduction and use of iterative algorithms in conservation biology in the 1980s and early 1990s in order to prioritize areas for protection as nature reserves. The importance of these algorithms was that they led to greater economy in spatial extent (“efficiency”) in the selection of areas to represent biological features adequately (that is, to a specified level) compared to older methods of scoring and ranking areas using criteria such as biotic “richness” (the number of features of interest). The development of these algorithms was critical to producing a research program for conservation biology that was distinct from ecology and eventually led to what came to be called systematic conservation planning. Very similar algorithmic approaches were introduced independently in the 1980–1990 period in Australia, South Africa, and (arguably) the United Kingdom. The key rules in these algorithms were the use of rarity and what came to be called complementarity (the number of new or under-represented features in an area relative to those that had already been selected). Because these algorithms were heuristic, they were not guaranteed to produce optimal (most “efficient”) solutions. However, complementarity came to be seen as a principle rather than a rule in an algorithm and its use was also advocated for the former reason. Optimal solutions could be produced by reformulating the reserve selection problem in a mathematical programming formalism and using exact algorithms developed in that context. A dispute over the relevance of full optimality arose and was never resolved. Moreover, exact algorithms could not easily incorporate criteria determining the spatial configuration of networks of selected areas, in contrast to heuristic algorithms. Meanwhile metaheuristic algorithms emerged in the 1990s and came to be seen as a credible more effective alternative to the heuristic algorithms. Ultimately what was important about these developments was that the reserve selection problem came to be viewed a complex optimal decision problem under uncertainty, resource, and other constraints. It was a type of problem that had no antecedent in traditional ecology.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Ackery P.R., Vane-Wright R.I (1984) Milkweed butterflies: Their cladistics and biology. Cornell University Press, Ithaca

    Google Scholar 

  2. Ball, I.R. 1996. Mathematical applications for conservation ecology: The dynamics of tree hollows and the design of nature reserves. PhD dissertation, University of Adelaide

  3. Ball, I.R., H.P. Possingham, and M.E. Watts. 2009. Marxan and relatives: Software for spatial conservation prioritization. In Spatial Conservation prioritization: Quantitative methods and computational tools, ed. A. Moilanen, K.A. Wilson, and H.P. Possingham, 185–195. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  4. Bradstock, R., and J.C. Noble. 1989. Mallee ecosystems and their management. Melbourne: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

  5. Brockington D., Duffy R., Igoe J. (2008) Nature unbound: Conservation, capitalism, and the future of protected areas. Earthscan, London

    Google Scholar 

  6. Chvatal V. (1979) A greedy heuristic for the set-covering problem. Mathematics of Operations Research 4: 233–235

    MathSciNet  MATH  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Ciarleglio, M. 2008. Modular abstract self-learning tabu search (MASTS): Metaheuristic search theory and practice. PhD dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, Graduate Program in Computational and Applied Mathematics

  8. Ciarleglio M., Barnes J.W., Sarkar S. (2009) ConsNet: New software for the selection of conservation area networks with spatial and multi-criteria analyses. Ecography 32: 205–209

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Cocks K.D., Baird I.A. (1989) Using mathematical programming to address the multiple reserve selection problem: An example from the Eyre peninsula, South Australia. Biological Conservation 49: 113–130

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Csuti B., Polasky S., Williams P.H., Pressey R.L., Camm J.D., Kershaw M., Kiester A.R, Downs B., Hamilton R., Huso M., Sahr K. (1997) A comparison of reserve selection algorithms using data on terrestrial vertebrates of Oregon. Biological Conservation 80: 83–97

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Diamond J.M. (1975) The island dilemma: Lessons of modern biogeographic studies for the design of nature reserves. Biological Conservation 7: 129–146

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Diamond, J.M. 1986. The design of a nature reserve system for Indonesian New Guinea. In Conservation biology: The science of scarcity and diversity, ed. M.E. Soulé, 485–503. Sunderland: Sinauer.

  13. Diamond, J.M., and R.M. May. 1976. Island biogeography and the design of nature reserves. In Theoretical ecology: Principles and applications, ed. R.M. May, 163–186. Oxford: Blackwell.

  14. Dowie M. (2009) Conservation refugees: The hundred-year conflict between global conservation and native peoples. MIT Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  15. Faith, D.P. 1995. Biodiversity and regional sustainability analysis. Tech. Rep. Lyneham: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

  16. Finkel E. (1998a) Forest pact bypasses computer model. Science 282: 1968–1969

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Finkel E. (1998b) Software helps Australia manage forest debate. Science 281: 1789–1791

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Gilbert F.S. (1980) The equilibrium theory of island biogeography: Fact or fiction?. Journal of Biogeography 7: 209–235

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Glover F. (1986) Future paths for integer programming and links to Artificial Intelligence. Computers and Operations Research 13(5): 533–549

    MathSciNet  MATH  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Higgs, A.J. 1981. Island biogeography and nature reserve design. Journal of Biogeography 8: 117–124

    Google Scholar 

  21. International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 1980. World conservation strategy.

  22. Justus J., Sarkar S. (2002) The principle of complementarity in the design of reserve networks to conserve biodiversity: A preliminary history. Journal of Biosciences 27(S2): 421–435

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Karmakar N. (1984) A new polynomial time algorithm for linear programming. Combinatorica 4: 375–395

    Google Scholar 

  24. Kelley, C., J.Garson, A. Aggarwal, and S. Sarkar. 2002. Place prioritization for biodiversity reserve network design: A comparison of the SITES and ResNet software packages for coverage and efficiency. Diversity and Distributions 8: 297–306.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Kingsland S.E. (2002) Designing nature reserves: Adapting ecology to real-world problems. Endeavour 26: 9–14

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Kirkpatrick J.B. (1983) An iterative method for establishing priorities for the selection of nature reserves: An example from Tasmania. Biological Conservation 25: 127–134

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Kirkpatrick J.B. (1986) Conservation of plant species, alliances abd associations of the treeless high country of Tasmania, Australia. Biological Conservation 25: 43–57

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Kirkpatrick J.B., Harwood C.E. (1983) Conservation of Tasmanian macrophytic wetland vegetation. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 117: 5–20

    Google Scholar 

  29. Kirkpatrick, J.B., M.J. Brown, and A. Moscal. 1980. Threatened plants of the Tasmanian Central East Coast. Hobart: Tasmanian Conservation Trust.

  30. Kirkpatrick, J.B., L. Gilfedder, F.D. Duncan, and S. Harris. 1991. Reservation status and priorities for Tasmanian plants. 1. Angiospermae (Dicotyldonae). In Aspects of Tasmanian botany, ed. M.R. Banks, S.J. Smith, A.E. Orchard, and G. Kantvilas, 163–172. Hobart: Royal Society of Tasmania.

  31. Krebs C.J. (1985) Ecology: The experimental analysis of distribution and abundance. Harper & Row, New York

    Google Scholar 

  32. Linquist S. (2008) But is it progress? on the alleged advances of conservation biology over ecology. Biology and Philosophy 23: 529–544

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. MacArthur R.H., Wilson E.O. (1967) The theory of island biogeography. Princeton University Press, Princeton

    Google Scholar 

  34. Magurran A.E. (2003) Measuring biological diversity. Blackwell, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  35. Margules C.R. (1989) Introduction to some Australian developments in conservation evaluation. Biological Conservation 50: 1–11

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Margules, C.R. 1989b. Selecting nature reserves in the South Australian mallee. In Mallee ecosystems and their management, ed. R. Bradstock, J.C. Noble, 398–405. Melbourne: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

  37. Margules, C.R., and A.O. Nicholls. 1987. Assessing the conservation value of remnant habitat ‘islands’: Mallee patches on the Western Eyre peninsula, South Australia. In Nature conservation: The role of remnants of native vegetation, ed. D.A. Saunders, G.W. Arnold, A.A. Burbridge, and A.J.M. Hopkins, 89–102. Chipping Norton: Surrey Beatty and Sons.

  38. Margules C.R., Pressey R.L. (2000) Systematic conservation planning. Nature 405: 245–253

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Margules C.R., Sarkar S. (2007) Systematic Conservation Planning. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  40. Margules C.R., Usher M.B. (1981) Criteria used in assessing wildlife conservation potential: A review. Biological Conservation 21: 79–109

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Margules C.R., Higgs A.J., Rafe R.W. (1982) Modern biogeographic thoery: Are there any lessons for reserve design?. Biological Conservation 24: 115–128

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Margules C.R., Nicholls A.O., Pressey R.L. (1988) Selecting networks of reserves to maximize biological diversity. Biological Conservation 43: 63–76

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Moffett A., Sarkar S. (2006) Incorporating multiple criteria into the design of conservation area networks: A minireview with recommendations. Diversity and Distributions 12: 125–137

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Moilanen, A., A.M.A. Franco, R.I. Early, R. Fox, B. Wintle, and C.D. Thomas. 2005. Prioritizing multiple-use landscapes for conservation: Methods for large multi-species planning problems. Proceedings of the Royal Society (London) B 272: 1885–1891

    Google Scholar 

  45. Myers N. (1988) Threatened biotas: “Hot spots” in tropical forests. Environmentalist 8: 187–208

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Nicholls, A.O., C.R. Margules. 1993. An updated reserve selection algorithm. Biological Conservation 64: 165–169

    Google Scholar 

  47. Okin, W.J. 1997. The biodiversity management area selection model: Constructing a solution approach. Master’s thesis, Univesity of California, Santa Barbara

  48. Possingham, H.P., J. Day, M. Goldfinch, and F. Salzborn. 1983. The mathematics of designing a network of protected areas for conservation. In Decision sciences: Tools for today, ed. D. Sutton, E. Cousins, and C. Pierce, 536–545. Proceedings of the 12th Australian Operations Research Conference, Australian Society for Operations Research, Adelaide, Australia

  49. Reserve selection in New South Wales: Where to from here? Australian Zoologist 26: 70–75.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Pressey R.L. (1994) Ad Hoc reservations: Forward or backward steps in developing representative reserve systems. Conservation Biology 8: 662–668

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Pressey, R.L. 1998. Algorithms, politics, and timber: An example of the role of science in a public, political negotiation process over new conservation areas in production forests. In Ecology for everyone: Communicating ecology to scientists, the public and the politicians, ed. R. Wills and R. Hobbs, 73–87. Sydney: Surrey Beatty.

  52. Pressey R.L. (2002) The first reserve selection algorithm: A retrospective on Jamie Kirkpatrick’s 1983 paper. Progress in Physical Geography 26: 434–441

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Pressey R.L., Nicholls A.O. (1989a) Application of numerical algorithm to the selection of reserves in semi-arid New South Wales. Biological Conservation 50: 263–278

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Pressey R.L., Nicholls A.O. (1989b) Efficiency in conservation evaluation: Scoring versus iterative approaches. Biological Conservation 50: 199–218

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Pressey R.L., Tully S.L. (1994) The cost of ad hoc reservation: A case study in New South Wales. Australian Journal of Ecology 19: 375–384

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Pressey R.L., Humphries C.J., Margules C.R., Vane-Wright R.I., Williams P.H. (1993) Beyond opportunism: Key principles for systematic reserve selection. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 8: 124–128

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Pressey R.L., Possingham H.P., Margules C.R. (1996) Optimality in reserve selection algorithms: When does it matter and how much?. Biological Conservation 76: 259–267

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Pressey, R.L., H.P. Possingham, and J.R. Day. 1997. Effectiveness of alternative heuristic algorithms for identifying indicative minimum requirements for conseravtion reserves. Biological Conservation 80: 207–219.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Ratcliffe D. (1971) Criteria for the selection of nature reserves. Advances in Science 27: 294–296

    Google Scholar 

  60. Rebelo A.G., Siegfried W.R. (1990) Protection of Fynbos vegetation: Ideal and real-world options. Biological Conservation 54: 15–31

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Rebelo A.G., Siegfried W.R. (1992) Where should nature reserves be located in the cape floristic region, south africa?. Conservation Biology 6: 243–252

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Revelle C.S., Williams J.C., Boland J.J. (2002) Counterpart models in facility location science and reserve selection science. Environmental Modeling and Assessment 7: 71–80

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Rodrigues A.S., Gaston K.J. (2002) Optimisation in reserve selection procedures—Why not?. Biological Conservation 107: 123–129

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Rodrigues A.S., Cerdeira J.O., Gaston K.J. (2000) Flexibility, efficiency, and accountability: Adapting reserve selection algorithms to more complex conservation problems. Ecography 23: 565–574

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Sarkar S. (1998) Restoring wilderness or reclaiming forests?. Terra Nova 3(3): 35–52

    Google Scholar 

  66. Sarkar S. (2002) Preface: Conservation biology: The new consensus. Journal of Biosciences 27(S2), i–iv

    Google Scholar 

  67. Sarkar, S. 2003. Conservation area networks. Conservation and Society 1: v–vii.

  68. Sarkar, S. 2004. Conservation biology. In The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, ed. E.N. Zalta. Stanford: Stanford University. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2004/entries/conservation-biology/.

  69. Sarkar, S. 2005. Biodiversity and environmental philosophy: An introduction to the issues. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  70. Sarkar S. (2007) Doubting Darwin? Creationist designs on evolution. Blackwell Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  71. Sarkar, S. 2007b. From ecological diversity to biodiversity. In The cambridge companion to the philosophy of biology, ed. D.L. Hull and M. Ruse, 388–409. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  72. Sarkar, S. 2007c. Haldane and the emergence of modern evolutionary theory. In Handbook of the philosophy of biology, ed. M. Matthen and C. Stephens, 49–86. New York: Elsevier.

  73. Sarkar S., Margules C.R. (2002) Operationalizing biodiversity for conservation planning. Journal of Biosciences 27(S2): 299–308

    Article  Google Scholar 

  74. Sarkar S., Aggarwal A., GarsonJ.MargulesC.R. Zeidler J. (2002) Place prioritization for biodiveristy content. Journal of Biosciences 27(S2): 339–346

    Article  Google Scholar 

  75. Sarkar, S., R.L. Pressey, D.P. Faith, C.R. Margules, T. Fuller, D.M. Stoms, A. Moffett, K. Wilson, K.J. Williams, P.H. Williams, and S. Andelman. 2006. Biodiversity conservation planning tools: Present status and challenges for the future. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 31: 123–159.

    Google Scholar 

  76. Simberloff D. (1988) The contribution of population and community biology to conservation science. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 19: 473–511

    Article  Google Scholar 

  77. Simberloff D., Cox J. (1987) Consequences and costs of conservation corridors. Conservation Biology 1: 63–71

    Article  Google Scholar 

  78. Soulé M.E. (1985) What is conservation biology?. BioScience 35: 727–734

    Article  Google Scholar 

  79. Soulé M.E., Simberloff D. (1986) What do genetics and ecology tell us about the design of nature reserves?. Biological Conservation 35: 19–40

    Article  Google Scholar 

  80. Takacs, D. 1996. The idea of biodiversity: Philosophies of paradise. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

  81. Thomas C.D., Mallorie H.C. (1985) Rarity, species richness and conservation: Butterflies in the Atlas mountains of morocco. Biological Conservation 33: 95–117

    Article  Google Scholar 

  82. Toregas C., Swain R., ReVelle C., Bergman L. (1971) The location of emergency service facilities. Operations Research 19: 1363–1373

    MATH  Article  Google Scholar 

  83. Underhill L.G. (1994) Optimal and suboptimal reserve selection algorithms. Biological Conservation 70: 85–87

    Article  Google Scholar 

  84. Vane-Wright, R.I. 1996. Identifying priorities for the conservation of biodiversity: Systematic biological criteria within a socio-political framework. In Biodiversity: A biology of numbers and difference, ed. K.J. Gaston, 309–344. Oxford: Blackwell.

  85. Vane-Wright, R.I., C.J. Humphries, and P.H. Williams. 1991. What to protect? Systematics and the agony of choice. Biological Conservation 55: 235–254.

    Google Scholar 

  86. Walker, P.A., and D.P. Faith. 1998. TARGET software package. Tech. Rep. Canberra: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

  87. Whittaker, R.H. 1960. Vegetation of the Siskiyou Mountains, Oregon and California. Ecological Monographs 30: 279–338.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  88. Williams J.C., ReVelle C.S., Levin S.A. (2005) Spatial attributes and reserve design models: A review. Environmental Modeling and Assessment 10: 163–181

    Article  Google Scholar 

  89. Wilson, E.O., and E.O. Willis. 1975. Applied biogeography. In Ecology and the evolution of communities, ed. M.L. Cody and J.M. Diamond, 522–534. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

  90. Zimmerman B.L., Bierregaard R.O. (1986) Relevance of the equilibrium theory of biogeography and species–area relations to conservation with a case from Amazonia. Journal of Biogeography 13: 133–143

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sahotra Sarkar.

Additional information

Communicated by : Manfred Laubichler.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Sarkar, S. Complementarity and the selection of nature reserves: algorithms and the origins of conservation planning, 1980–1995. Arch. Hist. Exact Sci. 66, 397–426 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00407-012-0097-6

Download citation

Keywords

  • Biodiversity
  • Complementarity
  • Conservation biology, history
  • Reserve design
  • Reserve selection
  • Systematic conservation planning