• Open Access

Core concepts of spatial prioritisation in systematic conservation planning


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Systematic conservation planning (SCP) is a field of conservation biology concerned with delivering on-the-ground actions that achieve conservation goals. It describes a set of operational models that cover both design and implementation of conservation, with a strong focus on mobilising the collective action typically required to implement conservation. SCP, as it was originally described, was composed of six different stages: collection of data, identification of conservation goals, evaluation of the existing protected area network, design of expansions, implementation of conservation action, and long-term maintenance of biodiversity in the network. Since then, the operational model has been expanded into several different variants. Conservation actions applied inside SCP include establishment and expansion of reserve networks and allocation of habitat restoration and management.

Within the broader context of SCP, there is a fundamental biogeographic-economic analysis frequently called spatial conservation prioritisation or conservation assessment, which is used for identifying where important areas for biodiversity are and how conservation goals might be achieved efficiently. Here, we review the usage and meaning of the 12 biogeographic-economic core concepts of SCP: adequacy, complementarity, comprehensiveness, effectiveness, efficiency, flexibility, irreplaceability, replacement cost, representation, representativeness, threat, and vulnerability. Some of the concepts have clear definitions whereas others may have alternative and possibly conflicting definitions. With a comprehensive literature review literature, we elucidate the historical backgrounds of these concepts, the first definitions and usages, alternative later definitions, key applications, and prior reviews. This review reduces linguistic uncertainty in the application of SCP. Since SCP is a global activity with a multitude of different stakeholders involved, it is vital that those involved can speak the same language. Through these concepts, this review serves as a source of information about the historical development of SCP. It provides a comprehensive review for anyone wishing to understand the key concepts of spatial prioritisation within SCP.