CIE Spotlight: Incorporating regional-scale ecological knowledge to improve the effectiveness of large-scale conservation programmes

Don D.
Don D.

Authors: Kay, G. M.; Barton, P. S.; Driscoll, D. A.; Cunningham, S. A.; Blanchard, W.; McIntyre, S.; Lindenmayer, D. B.

Source: ANIMAL CONSERVATION, 19 (6):515-525, DEC 2016

Brief summary of the paper: Land-stewardship programmes are a major focus of investment by governments for conserving biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. These programmes are generally large-scale (e.g. >1000 km) spanning multiple biogeographic regions but developed using spatially limited (e.g. landscape-scale; <100 km) ecological data interpolated across broad areas for one, or a few, well-studied taxonomic groups.

Information about how less-studied taxa respond to regional differences in management and environmental effects has potential to further inform land-stewardship conservation programmes, but suitable data sets are rarely available.

In this study, we sought to enhance planning of large-scale conservation programmes by quantifying relationships between reptile assemblages and key environmental attributes at regional scales within a large-scale (>172 000 km2) Australian land-stewardship programme. Using 234 remnant woodland monitoring sites spanning four distinct biogeographic regions, we asked: Do reptile assemblages show different environmental associations across biogeographically distinct regions?

We found that environmental features important to reptile diversity differed over each region. Abundance and rare species richness of reptiles responded at regional-scales to elevation, native groundcover and aspect. We identified four implications from our study: (1) large-scale conservation schemes can achieve better outcomes for reptiles using regional-scale knowledge of environmental associations; (2) regional-scale knowledge is particularly valuable for conservation of rare reptile taxa; (3) consideration of abiotic environmental features which cannot be directly managed (e.g. aspect, elevation) is important; (4) programmes can be tailored to better support reptile groups at higher conservation risk.

Our study shows that reptile-environment associations differ among biogeographic regions, and this presents opportunity for tailoring stronger policy and management strategies for conserving large-scale agricultural landscapes globally.