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Incorporating established conservation networks into freshwater conservation planning results in more workable prioritizations

December 14, 2020

Resources for addressing stream fish conservation issues are often limited and the stressors impacting fish continue to increase, so decision makers often rely on tools to prioritize locations for conservation actions. Because conservation networks already exist in many areas, incorporating these into the planning process can increase the ability of decision makers to carry out management actions. In this study we aim to identify priority areas within established networks to provide an approach which allows managers to focus efforts on the most valuable areas they control, while identifying areas outside of the network, which support species with minimal representation within the network, for acquisition or conservation partnerships. The goal of this approach is to prioritize sites to achieve high levels of species representation while also developing workable solutions. We applied a methodology incorporating established networks into a systematic conservation planning process for fish in temperate wadeable streams located in Missouri, USA. We compared how well species were represented in our approach with two commonly used alternatives: A blank slate approach which used the same systematic conservation planning technique but did not incorporate established networks, and a habitat integrity approach based solely on anthropogenic threat data. Relative to the blank slate approach, our approach required 210% more segments for representation of all species, and contained an average of 0.5 additional occurrences for the least well-represented species. Although the blank slate solution was more efficient in achieving species representation, 77% of segments in this solution were not already protected. This would likely pose a challenge for implementing conservation actions. Relative to habitat integrity-based priorities, our approach required only 38% of the number of stream segments to achieve representation of all species and contained an average of 5 additional occurrences of the least represented species, representing a substantial gain in representation. Incorporating established networks may allow managers to focus resources on areas with the greatest conservation value within established networks and to identify the most valuable areas complementary to the established networks, resulting in priorities which may be more actionable and effective than those developed by alternative approaches.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Incorporating established conservation networks into freshwater conservation planning results in more workable prioritizations
DOI 10.3389/fenvs.2020.515081
Authors N. Sievert, Craig Paukert, J. B. Whittier
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Frontiers in Environmental Science
Index ID 70227738
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Atlanta

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