Sympathy for the devil: detailing the effects of planning-unit size, thematic resolution of reef classes, and socioeconomic costs on spatial priorities for marine conservation

Cheok, Jessica, Pressey, Robert L., Weeks, Rebecca, Andréfouët, Serge, and Moloney, James (2016) Sympathy for the devil: detailing the effects of planning-unit size, thematic resolution of reef classes, and socioeconomic costs on spatial priorities for marine conservation. PLoS One, 11 (11). E0164869. pp. 1-25.

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Spatial data characteristics have the potential to influence various aspects of prioritising bio-diversity areas for systematic conservation planning. There has been some exploration of the combined effects of size of planning units and level of classification of physical environments on the pattern and extent of priority areas. However, these data characteristics have yet to be explicitly investigated in terms of their interaction with different socioeconomic cost data during the spatial prioritisation process. We quantify the individual and interacting effects of three factors - planning-unit size, thematic resolution of reef classes, and spatial variability of socioeconomic costs-on spatial priorities for marine conservation, in typical marine planning exercises that use reef classification maps as a proxy for biodiversity. We assess these factors by creating 20 unique prioritisation scenarios involving combinations of different levels of each factor. Because output data from these scenarios are analogous to ecological data, we applied ecological statistics to determine spatial similarities between reserve designs. All three factors influenced prioritisations to different extents, with cost variability having the largest influence, followed by planning-unit size and thematic resolution of reef classes. The effect of thematic resolution on spatial design depended on the variability of cost data used. In terms of incidental representation of conservation objectives derived from finer-resolution data, scenarios prioritised with uniform cost outperformed those prioritised with variable cost. Following our analyses, we make recommendations to help maximise the spatial and cost efficiency and potential effectiveness of future marine conservation plans in similar planning scenarios. We recommend that planners: employ the smallest planning-unit size practical; invest in data at the highest possible resolution; and, when planning across regional extents with the intention of incidentally representing fine-resolution features, prioritise the whole region with uniform costs rather than using coarse-resolution data on variable costs.

Item ID: 47217
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
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Copyright: © 2016 Cheok et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), James Cook University (JCU), US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), University of South Florida (USF), Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)
Research Data:,,,,
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2016 07:34
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 34%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410404 Environmental management @ 33%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410406 Natural resource management @ 33%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9607 Environmental Policy, Legislation and Standards > 960701 Coastal and Marine Management Policy @ 34%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9613 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas > 961303 Protected Conservation Areas in Marine Environments @ 33%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences @ 33%
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