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Leading scientists design new framework for biodiversity conservation

A new study published in the August issue of the journal Ecology Letters shows that elaborate modeling efforts used to guide land conservation result in plans that are rarely achievable in the real world--and may actually be counter-productive to achieving long term protection of plants and animals.

"Conservation agencies are spending ten's of millions of dollars on systematic planning, but it doesn't translate to saving wildlife," says author Sandy Andelman, Deputy Director of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis where the study was conducted. "We need to reallocate dollars spent on 'perfect world' planning scenarios to aggressively pursue opportunities to safeguard habitat for species that are most in need."

Creating networks of parks and protected areas is a cornerstone of global conservation strategies. Yet 40% of highly threatened vertebrates mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles do not occur in a single protected area around the globe.

Wanting to reverse the rapid decline of species, both public and private conservation groups from the Park Service to The Nature Conservancy face a constant dilemma of when, where, and how to invest limited funds to maximize conservation benefits. In attempts to have a scientific foundation for these decisions, policy makers have invested in complex processes to design blueprints for the optimal configuration of protected area networks.

Ironically, the authors of the new study - leading mathematicians and conservation planners are the very people who have been at the forefront of these modeling efforts. Frustrated with continued species loss, they took a step back to figure out how to improve the system. Surprisingly they found that an opportunistic approach informed by basic scientific information about the abundance and distribution of plants and animals, but heavily focused on how landowners make decisions - will have a better shot at protecting biodiversity ov
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14-Jul-2004


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