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Strategies of Reserve Selection

  1. Mar Cabeza1,2,
  2. Astrid van Teeffelen3

Published Online: 15 MAR 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0021224



How to Cite

Cabeza, M. and van Teeffelen, A. 2009. Strategies of Reserve Selection. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Helsinki, Metapopulation Research Group, Finland

  2. 2

    Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC, Madrid, Spain

  3. 3

    Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 MAR 2009


Existing protected areas contain only a biased sample of the Earth's biodiversity. This is because conservation has to compete with other land-uses. Limitations in space and budget highlight the importance of effective and efficient conservation strategies. In this context, questions like what elements of biodiversity should we focus on, and where to protect them, are difficult to answer. The field of spatial conservation planning has evolved to address these questions, with attention to cost-efficiency, representativeness, adequacy, flexibility, threat and vulnerability. It encourages politicians and conservation planners to set quantitative conservation goals, and offers tools to prioritize among large sets of species, ecosystem types and areas. The implementation of this approach is becoming essential in order to halt the loss of biodiversity in a world of increasing human population and increasing demand for natural resources.

Key concepts

  • Protected areas have long been established opportunistically resulting in inefficient spending of conservation funds.

  • Scoring methods rank individual sites according to their conservation value, but cannot guide the design of networks efficiently.

  • Complementarity-based approaches instead, evaluate the value of the network as a whole, thus achieving cost-efficiency in reserve network design.

  • Aiming at representation of species or ecosystems in reserves is insufficient. Conservation goals and their derived targets should aim at persistence if biodiversity loss is to be halted.

  • To achieve cost-efficiency, targets have to be explicit and quantitative.

  • A large suit of tools exists to aid conservation decision-making under conditions where data is incomplete or of poor quality – typical for biodiversity data. More or better data is indispensable, but meanwhile decision-making can proceed.

  • Although the perfect biodiversity surrogate does not exist, basing the design of reserve networks on information for a number of taxa produces promising results.

  • Connectivity of reserve networks promotes the persistence of species in fragmented landscapes.

  • One-size-fits-all solutions do not always exist. Species or habitats may require different conservation actions, leading to inevitable trade-offs.

  • Although spatial prioritization has been mostly used to locate protected areas, it can be used to assist the identification and location of most suitable management actions.


  • biodiversity representation;
  • cost-efficiency;
  • reserve network design;
  • spatial prioritization;
  • systematic conservation planning