Royal Society Publishing

The performance of existing networks of conservation areas in representing biodiversity

A.S.L. Rodrigues, R. Tratt, B.D. Wheeler, k. J. Gaston

Abstract

It is widely held that existing reserve systems are inadequate in representing the diversity of biological features of the regions in which they reside. Evidence for this argument has, however, derived principally from analyses of the efficiency of networks when compared with a minimum set that represents each species at least once. Here, we examine the efficiency of the system of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in representing wetland plants in fen sites in the Scottish Borders, a region where reserve networks might be expected a priori to perform reasonably well in this regard. The results support the general contention that networks have been designated in an inefficient manner. However, examined in terms of effectiveness (measured as the gap between the representation target required and the one attained by the existing network), the SSSI system is actually a rather good way of representing diversity. This result is consistent when each of several very different representation targets is evaluated, and suggests that a more balanced approach to evaluating the performance of reserve networks should be employed, and that general statements based on existing analyses should be treated cautiously.

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