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Title: Identifying gaps in conservation networks: of indicators and uncertainty in geographic-based analyses

Author: Flather, Curtis H.; Wilson, Kenneth R.; Dean, Denis J.; McComb, William C.;

Date: 1997

Source: Ecological Applications. 7(2): 531–542

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Mapping of biodiversity elements to expose gaps in. conservation networks has become a common strategy in nature-reserve design. We review a set of critical assumptions and issues that influence the interpretation and implementation of gap analysis, including: (1) the assumption that a subset of taxa can be used to indicate overall diversity patterns, and (2) the impact of uncertainty and error propagation in reserve design. We focus our review on species diversity patterns and use data from peer-reviewed literature or extant state-level databases to test specific predictions implied by these assumptions. Support for the biodiversity indicator assumption was varied. Patterns of diversity as reflected in species counts, coincidence of hot spots, and representativeness were not generally concordant among different taxa, with the degree of concordance depending on the measure of diversity used, the taxa examined, and the scale of analysis. Simulated errors in predicting the occurrence of individual species indicated that substantial differences in reserve-boundary recommendations could occur when uncertainty is incorporated into the analysis. Furthermore, focusing exclusively on vegetation and species distribution patterns in conservation planning will contribute to reserve-design uncertainty unless the processes behind the patterns are understood. To deal with these issues, reserve planners should base reserve design on the best available, albeit incomplete, data; should attempt to define those ecological circumstances when the indicator assumption is defensible; should incorporate uncertainty explicitly in mapped displays of biodiversity elements; and should simultaneously consider pattern and process in reserve-design problems.

Keywords: biodiversity mapping and disclosure of uncertainty, cartography and error propagation, conservation network, conservation reserves, gap analysis, indicator taxa, landscape conservation, reserve design, species diversity, species richness, species-habitat relationships

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Flather, Curtis H.; Wilson, Kenneth R.; Dean, Denis J.; McComb, William C. 1997. Identifying gaps in conservation networks: of indicators and uncertainty in geographic-based analyses. Ecological Applications. 7(2): 531–542


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