Tal Polak 1 1Tal Polak, a CEED PhD student based at the University of Queensland, has just won the best poster award at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Israeli Society for Ecology and Environmental Science.

Her award-winning poster, based on work published by The Royal Society,  examined the efficiency and effectiveness of current approaches to the expansion of the global protected area network to conserve species and ecosystems. This expansion is a core priority of the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD).

The CBD advocates the use of environmental surrogates, such as ecosystems, as a basis for planning where new protected areas should be placed. However, the effectiveness of this approach is unknown.

Polak and colleagues examined the impact of ecosystem-based planning on the representation of threatened species using Australia as a case study. They tested scenarios for protected area expansion using two targets: 1) 10% coverage of each of Australia’s 85 bioregions and 2) species-specific targets based on spatial range of all of Australia’s 1,320 threatened species. They measured the total land area required to meet the ecosystem and species targets independently, sequentially or simultaneously.

Their analysis revealed that seeking ecosystem coverage alone is poor at meeting targets for threatened species. Less than a quarter of species targets were met using this approach, representing only a slight (3.2%) improvement to the current protected area network.

Planning simultaneously for species and ecosystems targets delivered the most efficient outcomes, while planning first for ecosystems and then filling the gaps to meet species targets was the most inefficient conservation strategy.

“Our analysis highlights the pitfalls of pursuing goals for species and ecosystems non-cooperatively,” says Polak. “This has significant implications for nations aiming to meet their CBD-mandated protected area obligations.”

Poster title: Efficient expansion of global protected areas requires simultaneous planning for species and ecosystems. By Tal Polak, James Watson, Richard Fuller, Liana Joseph, Tara Martin, Hugh Possingham, Oscar Venter and Josie Carwardine.

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