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Why are we still using a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy for systematic reserve planning in Australia?

Watson, J.E.M., Fuller, R.A. & Barr, L. 2008. Why are we still using a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy for systematic reserve planning in Australia? Pacific Conservation Biology, 14, 233–235.

Funds available for investment in biodiversity conservation are small in comparison with the resources available to those interested in using the land for other purposes. In response to this disparity, the discipline of systematic conservation planning has developed tools to optimize decision making for investing limited conservation funds in the most effective and transparent manner possible. In this essay we outline two major concerns we have with current implementations of these systematic principles in Australia. Firstly, we are concerned about the use of a fixed threshold for defining adequacy within the current protected area framework. There is an emerging consensus that the protection of 10–15% of original habitat extent is too little to sustain populations of most species for the long term, and will not protect the key ecological and evolutionary processes needed to sustain biodiversity. Secondly, some protected areas contribute little to biodiversity conservation. Arguably the most important goal of a protected area network is to separate samples of biodiversity from processes that threaten their continued existence. Therefore assessments of reserve systems also need to assess the effectiveness with which reserves mitigate such threats. A philosophical shift away from relying solely on protected areas for biodiversity conservation to a more holistic,  landscape-wide approach may be the next step forward for saving Australia’s threatened biodiversity.

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