Science 15 November 2013:
Vol. 342 no. 6160 pp. 803-805
Policy Forum

Protected Areas and Effective Biodiversity Conservation

Soizic Le Saout, Michael Hoffmann, Yichuan Shi, Adrian Hughes, Cyril Bernard, Thomas M. Brooks, Bastian Bertzky, Stuart H. M. Butchart, Simon N. Stuart, Tim Badman, Ana S. L. Rodrigues | 3 Comments

Increasing the collective contribution of protected areas toward preventing species extinctions requires the strategic allocation of management efforts.

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1. Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta was designed UNESCO MAB BR in 1979. In the Supplementary Materials in table S2 there is not a reference about that. 2. This is a very useful investigation for planning. 3. Agree with Landon A, the success of planning and maintaining PA, rest mainly on the capacity to bring about actions, both: visionary and landed. The first in order to concrete the outcome of protection and the second to be pertinent and relevant to the inhabitants and the other stakeholders in function of the integrality of ecological services.

Submitted on Sun, 06/01/2014 - 14:22

Le Saout and others provide important policy recommendations on where to allocate management interventions among existing protected areas. In such prioritizations, the analysis method plays a crucial role. We reanalyzed the same data using dedicated spatial prioritization software and found an equally sized set of priority areas with over 2.5 times higher coverage of species distributions.

The analysis by Le Saout and others is policy relevant and makes best use of the extensive IUCN data resources. However, as recognized also by the authors, the analysis does not consider the area of protected areas (later PAs) and it does not explicitly account for complementarity, implying that top-priority areas could be relatively similar to each other, possibly highly emphasizing large species-rich tropical protected areas.

We reanalyzed the same data using Zonation software (1-3) accounting for complementarity and PA area size. The tool produces a priority ranking that reflects the importance of planning units to conservation.

We sampled distributions of the same 21,671 species to global lat/long grids (resolution 1.7 km at the Equator) and analyzed the distributions within the PA network using Zonation with different settings. The tool produced priority maps and sets of performance curves that describe the extent to which each species is represented in different priority fractions of the landscape (here PAs).

The results show that by using prioritization in selecting the top PAs (5.5 % of the area of the PA network), one could cover over 2.5 times higher mean fraction of species distributions than proposed by Le Saout and others. When restricting the analysis only to PAs larger than 1000 km2 we found almost two times higher coverage.

We conclude that while the work of Le Saout et al. is very policy relevant, the selection method considerably influences the results. A dedicated prioritization method can produce major performance gains in PA prioritization.

Authors: Peter Kullberg, Tuuli Toivonen, Federico Montesino Pouzols, Joona Lehtomäki, Enrico Di Minin and Atte Moilanen

References: 1) Zonation software:

2) A. Moilanen, et al., Balancing alternative land uses in conservation prioritization. Ecol. Appl. 21, 1419-1426 (2011).

3) J. Lehtomäki, A. Moilanen, Methods and workflow for spatial conservation prioritization using Zonation. Environ. Model. Softw. 47, 128-137 (2013).

Submitted on Fri, 03/21/2014 - 05:00


The 15 November 2013 Science Policy Forum article “Protected Areas and Effective Biodiversity Conservation” by Le Saout et al. outlines an important agenda for the preservation of biodiversity in protected areas (PA) at the global scale. Specifically, in order to stem species loss the authors call for the need to enhance management and extend World Heritage status to key PAs. Although the authors acknowledge that management must be tailored to biodiversity concerns at the local scale, little attention is directed toward the cultural, political, and economic aspects of the proposed PA expansion, which ultimately underpins the long-term success of policy change (1). Effective biodiversity conservation requires not only legal protection and effective management, but buy-in from local peoples dependent on the PA for livelihoods and human well-being. Most of the world’s ~173,461 PAs are managed with permanent human populations (stakeholders) adjacent to and often within their boundaries. Without consideration of these stakeholders’ interests, no level of protection can be established to halt the imperilment of species and ecosystems while ensuring social justice. That is, the success or failure of biodiversity conservation through PA management hinges not only on biologically-based reserve design, but also on the understanding that stakeholders should be considered as an integral component, with a focus on communication strategies, proper assessment of market forces driving resource extraction, and ethical concerns about human communities affected by decision-making (2). We feel that without explicitly highlighting and addressing the need for stakeholder engagement in PA planning and management, the proposed expansion will not fully meet its goal of conserving global biodiversity.


Adam Landon, Carena van Riper, Gerard Kyle, Charles van Riper III


1. N. C. Ban et al., A social–ecological approach to conservation planning: embedding social considerations. Front. Ecol. Environ. 11, 194-202.

2. M. B. Mascia et al., Conservation and the social sciences. Conserv. Biol. 17, 649-650 (2003).

Submitted on Wed, 01/08/2014 - 15:49