Weeks, E. S., Walker, S., Overton, J. M., & Clarkson, B. (2013). The value of validated vulnerability data for conservation planning in rapidly changing landscapes. Environment Management, published online 11 April 2013.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/7604
Data needed for informed conservation prioritization are generally greater than the data available, and surrogates are often used. Although the need to anticipate threats is recognized, the effectiveness of surrogates for predicting habitat loss (or vulnerability) to land-use change is seldom tested. Here, we compared properties of two different vulnerability surrogates to validated vulnerability—validated prediction of habitat conversion based on a recent assessment of land-use change. We found that neither surrogate was a particularly effective predictor of vulnerability. Importantly, both surrogates performed poorly in places most imminently threatened with habitat conversion. We also show that the majority of areas protected over the last two decades have low vulnerability to the most active threatening process in this biome (habitat conversion). The contrary patterns of vulnerability and protection suggest that use of validated vulnerability would help to clarify protection needs, which might lead to the improvement of conservation decisions. Our study suggests the integration of validated vulnerability into conservation planning tools may be an important requirement for effective conservation planning in rapidly changing landscapes. We apply our results to discuss the practical considerations and potential value of incorporating validated vulnerability into conservation planning tools both generally and in the context of New Zealand’s indigenous grasslands.