Choosing surrogates for biodiversity conservation in complex planning environments

TitleChoosing surrogates for biodiversity conservation in complex planning environments
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsStoms, DM, Comer, PJ, Crist, PJ, Grossman, DH
JournalJournal of Conservation Planning
Date Published2005
Keywordscoarse-filter, conservation planning, fine-filter, Napa County, reserve selection, sensitivity analysis, Sites, surrogates

The coarse filter/fine filter hypothesis suggests that by conserving high-quality examples of all ecological systems along with imperiled species and communities, we could protect the majority of native biodiversity. Given the cost of data collection, conservation planners might wonder how large this set of elements must be. We conducted an analysis of the sensitivity of selecting a set of reserves to the choice of surrogates in Napa County, California, USA. The study evaluated the extent to which conservation goals for the coarse/fine-filter elements were met by surrogates and whether the same general locations were being selected. Napa County represents a data-rich setting, whereas the test surrogates portrayed a range of circumstances where less data are available. A worst (data-poor) case, based only on landscape condition with no biological data, was tested to identify the value of improved information. Our results suggest that in complex planning environments, there are no simple shortcuts in collecting data. None of the surrogate sets was particularly effective at meeting all the goals for the full set of baseline elements. There was also relatively low spatial congruence between the test solutions and the baseline. However, we did find that all combinations of surrogates provided some degree of protection in notional reserves, suggesting that in less complex planning problems, simpler surrogates can serve a useful function. Studies like this will help planners gauge how much effort it is prudent to spend in compiling spatial data relative to the risks and irreplaceability to native biodiversity.