Decision-support tools are commonly used to maximize return on investments (ROI) in conservation. We evaluated how the relative value of information on biodiversity features and land cost varied with data structure and variability, attributes of focal species and conservation targets, and habitat suitability thresholds for contrasting bird communities in the Pacific Northwest of North America. Specifically, we used spatial distribution maps for 20 bird species, land values, and an integer linear programming model to prioritize land units (1 km2) that met conservation targets at the lowest estimated cost (hereafter ‘efficiency’). Across scenarios, the relative value of biodiversity data increased with conservation targets, as higher thresholds for suitable habitat were applied, and when focal species occurred disproportionately on land of high assessed value. Incorporating land cost generally improved planning efficiency, but at diminishing rates as spatial variance in biodiversity features relative to land cost increased. Our results offer a precise, empirical demonstration of how spatially-optimized planning solutions are influenced by spatial variation in underlying feature layers. We also provide guidance to planners seeking to maximize efficiency in data acquisition and resolve potential trade-offs when setting targets and thresholds in financially-constrained, spatial planning efforts aimed at maximizing ROI in biodiversity conservation.
Scientific Reports
Department of Biology

Rodewald, A.D. (Amanda D.), Strimas-Mackey, M. (Matt), Schuster, R. (Richard), & Arcese, P. (Peter). (2019). Tradeoffs in the value of biodiversity feature and cost data in conservation prioritization. Scientific Reports, 9(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-019-52241-2