Open space areas protected by local communities may augment larger scale preservation efforts and may offer overlooked benefits to biodiversity conservation provided they are in suitable ecological condition. We examine protected areas established by local communities through ballot initiatives, a form of direct democracy, in California, USA. We compare ecological conditions of wooded habitats on local ballot protected sites and on sites protected by a state-level conservation agency. Collectively, we found few differences in ecological conditions on each protected area type. Ballot sites had greater invasive understory cover and larger trees. Community dissimilarity patterns suggested ballot sites protect a complementary set of tree species to those on state lands. Overall, geographic characteristics influenced onsite conditions more than details of how sites were protected. Thus, community-driven conservation efforts contribute to protected area networks by augmenting protection of some species while providing at least some protection to others that might otherwise be missed.
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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]. We sincerely thank our families and friends for their ongoing support. Special thanks to J. White, L. & L. Norgeot, A. Young, I. Veraja, M. Brady, T. Cline, M. & S. Balestreri, G. Stewart, and A. Wong for their extensive logistical support. We also thank colleagues at University of Tennessee- Knoxville, University of California-Davis, Resources for the Future, and The Smithsonian Institution for useful discussions. Additional thanks to all staff and managers at each of the ballot protected areas and California Department of Fish and Wildlife sites included in this study.
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Crain, B.J., Stachowiak, C., McKenzie, P.F. et al. Citizens of local jurisdictions enhance plant community preservation through ballot initiatives and voter-driven conservation efforts. Ambio 50, 1237–1247 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-020-01469-8