A new framework of spatial targeting for single-species conservation planning

Author(s): Burgess, M., Gregory, R., Wilson, J., Gillings, S., Evans, A., Chisholm, K., Southern, A. & Eaton, M.

Published: October 2019   Pages: 14pp

Journal: Landscape Ecology ( part 34 )

Digital Identifier No. (DOI): 10.1007/s10980-019-00919-3

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Organisations acting to conserve and protect species across large spatial scales prioritise to optimise use of resources. Spatial conservation prioritization tools typically focus on identifying areas containing species groups of interest, with few tools used to identify the best areas for single-species conservation, in particular, to conserve currently widespread but declining species.


A single-species prioritization framework, based on temporal and spatial patterns of occupancy and abundance, was developed to spatially prioritize conservation action for widespread species by identifying smaller areas to work within to achieve predefined conservation objectives.


We demonstrate our approach for 29 widespread bird species in the UK, using breeding bird atlas data from two periods to define distribution, relative abundance and change in relative abundance. We selected occupied 10-km squares with abundance trends that matched species conservation objectives relating to maintaining or increasing population size or range, and then identified spatial clusters of squares for each objective using a Getis-Ord-Gi* or near neighbour analysis.


For each species, the framework identified clusters of 20-km squares that enabled us to identify small areas in which species recovery action could be prioritized.


Our approach identified a proportion of species’ ranges to prioritize for species recovery. This approach is a relatively quick process that can be used to inform single-species conservation for any taxa if sufficiently fine-scale occupancy and abundance information is available for two or more time periods. This is a relatively simple first step for planning single-species focussed conservation to help optimise resource use.


We wish to thank all the volunteers who contributed considerable time and effort in fieldwork for the 2 atlases, and Fiona Hunter and Gillian Gilbert for discussion that guided the design of the framework. We also thank two anonymous reviewers. The 1988–1991 Atlas, and Bird Atlas 2007–2011, were both partnerships between BTO, BirdWatch Ireland and the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club.

The bird atlas data used in this study is available from the British Trust for Ornithology upon request (http://www.bto.org/research-data-services/data-services/data-request-system).

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