Multi-taxa spatial conservation planning reveals similar priorities between taxa and improved protected area representation with climate change

Author(s): Critchlow, R., Cunningham, C.A., Crick, H.Q.P., Macgregor, N.A., Morecroft, M.D., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Oliver, T.H., Carroll, M.J. & Beale, C.M.

Published: January 2022   Pages: 20pp

Journal: Biodiversity and Conservation

Digital Identifier No. (DOI): 10.1007/s10531-022-02357-1

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Protected area (PA) networks have in the past been constructed to include all major habitats, but have often been developed through consideration of only a few indicator taxa or across restricted areas, and rarely account for global climate change. Systematic conservation planning (SCP) aims to improve the efficiency of biodiversity conservation, particularly when addressing internationally agreed protection targets. We apply SCP in Great Britain (GB) using the widest taxonomic coverage to date (4,447 species), compare spatial prioritisation results across 18 taxa and use projected future (2080) distributions to assess the potential impact of climate change on PA network effectiveness. Priority conservation areas were similar among multiple taxa, despite considerable differences in spatial species richness patterns; thus systematic prioritisations based on indicator taxa for which data are widely available are still useful for conservation planning. We found that increasing the number of protected hectads by 2% (to reach the 2020 17% Aichi target) could have a disproportionate positive effect on species protected, with an increase of up to 17% for some taxa. The PA network in GB currently under-represents priority species but, if the potential future distributions under climate change are realised, the proportion of species distributions protected by the current PA network may increase, because many PAs are in northern and higher altitude areas. Optimal locations for new PAs are particularly concentrated in southern and upland areas of GB. This application of SCP shows
how a small addition to an existing PA network could have disproportionate benefits for species conservation.


The modelled species distributions were derived from raw data provided by the relevant national recording schemes and societies as part of the work by Pearce-Higgins et al. (2017). Specific thanks go to Chris Preston and Oli Pescott (British Bryological Society), Mark Telfer (Ground Beetle Recording Scheme), Tony Barber (British Myriapod & Isopod Group (Centipede Recording Scheme), John Kramer and Alan Stubbs (Cranefly Recording Scheme), Stuart Ball, Roger Morris, Joan Childs and Ellie Rotheray (Hoverfly Recording Scheme), Keith Alexander (Soldier Beetles, Jewel Beetles and Glow-worms Recording Scheme), Kevin Walker (Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI), Richard Fox (Butterfly Conservation), Peter G. Sutton (Orthoptera and Allied Insects Recording Scheme of Britain and Ireland), Tom August (NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology) and Peter Harvey (Spider Recording Scheme). We also gratefully acknowledge the efforts made by the many volunteer recorders who have provided data to these schemes, such a project would not be possible without their contributions. This project was funded by Natural England and CEC was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (grant NE/R012164/1).
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