Reserve design

Reserve design

Reserve Design is the process of planning and creating a nature reserve in a way that effectively accomplishes the goal of the reserve.

Reserves have a variety of goals and many different factors need to be taken into account in order for a reserve to be successful. These factors include habitat preference, migration, climate change, and public support. In order to fulfil goal of the reserve and accommodate the factors influencing its success, a specific design must be created and implemented.

Purpose of Reserves

Often reserves (or protected areas) are created with the intent of protecting a flagship species, usually Charismatic Macrofauna that are well known to the public (such as the Bengal tiger or giant panda). Other times they are created in the interest of protecting biodiversity.
Ecological communities that are at high risk and are considered irreplaceable are often selected to be preserved as well [(Groom and Meffe 1998)] .

ocial and ecological factors

Successful reserves incorporate important ecological and social factors into their design. Such factors include the natural range of predators. When a reserve is too small, carnivores have increased contact with humans, resulting in higher mortality rates for the carnivore [(Woodroffe and Ginsberg 1998)

  • ^ (Kurosawa and Askins 2003)
  • ^ (Moreno 1998)
  • ^ (Blake and Karr 1984)
  • ]

    Also certain species are area sensitive. A study on song birds in Japan showed that certain birds only settle in habitats much larger than the area they actually occupy Knowing species geographic range and preference is essential to determining the size of the reserve needed.

    Social factors such as the attitudes of local people should also be taken into account. If a reserve is put up in an area that people depend on for their livelihood the reserve often fails. For example in Bolivia, the Amboró National Park was expanded in 1991 from 1,800 to 6,370 km². While this was celebrated by conservationists, local people who would be displaced by the expansion were angered. They continued to hunt and log within the park and eventually the park size had to be reduced [8] . Because local people were not considered in the design of the reserve, conservation efforts failed. Many conservationists advocate local people must be included in conservation efforts, this is known as an Integrated Conservation and Development Project.

    Big or small?

    A large debate among conservation biologist is whether it is better to create several small reserves or one large reserve. The species area relationship S=cA^z states that the number of species in a habitat is directly proportional to its size. So theoretically if several small reserves have a greater total area than a single large reserve, the small reserves will contain a greater total number of species.

    The nested subset theory disagrees with this conclusion. It states that several small reserves will mostly share the same species, because certain species are better adapted to living in smaller habitats and many other species only exist in lager habitats.

    A study conducted in Illinois showed that two small forest reserves contained a larger number of bird species than one large forest patch, but the large reserve contained a larger number of migratory birds [(Blake and Karr 1984)] .

    Edge effects should also be considered in the creation of reserves.

    Reserve systems

    Protecting species in a confined area sometimes isn’t enough to protect the biodiversity of an entire region. Life within a nature reserve does not function as an isolated unit, separate from its surroundings. Many animals engage in migration and are not guaranteed to stay within fixed reserve boundaries. So in order to protect biodiversity over wide geographic range reserve systems are established. Reserve systems are a series of strategically placed reserves designed to connect habitats. This allows animals to travel between protected areas through wildlife corridors, A wildlife corridor is a protected passageway where it is known that fauna migrate. The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative is an excellent example of this type of conservation effort.

    Future habitat

    Future habitat of the species we wish to protect is of utmost importance when designing reserves. There are many questions to think about when determining future species ranges: How will the climate shift in the future? Where will species move? What species will climate change benefit? What are potential barriers to these needed species range shifts? Reserves must be designed with future habitat in mind, perhaps incorporating both the current and future ranges of the species’ of concern.

    The fundamental question in determining future species ranges is how the Earth is changing, both in the present and how it will change in the future. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency the average surface temperature of the Earth has raised 1.2 – 1.4 °F since 1900. 1 °F of this warming has occurred since the mid 1970s, and at present, the Earth’s surface is heating up about 0.32 °F per decade. [] Predicted increases in global temperature range from 1.4 °C to 5.8 °C by the year 2100 [ [IPCC] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2001. Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge (United Kingdom): Cambridge University Press. ] . Large changes in precipitation are also predicted to occur by both the A1Fl scenario [] and the B1 scenario [] [ Higgins Paul A.T., Harte J (2006) Biophysical and Biogeochemical Responses to Climate Change Depend on Dispersal and Migration. BioScience: Vol. 56, No. 5 pp. 407 – 417 ] It is predicted that there will also be large changes in the atmosphere and in the sea level. [] .

    This rapid, dramatic climate change has affected and will continue to affect species ranges. A well-publicized study by Camille Parmesan and Gary Yohe published in 2003 [ Parmesan C, Yohe G. 2003. A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems. Nature. 421:37 – 42 ] that drew on data collected on more than 1700 species illustrates this point well. 434 of the species in their study were characterized as having changed their range and abundances in the last 17-1000 years, with a median value of 66 years. Of these species that had seen shifts, 80% of them had shifted in the direction predicted by global climate change. These range shifts averaged 6.1 km per decade toward the poles or upward. Many species colonized regions that had previously been cooler. An example of this was species of sea anemones thriving in Monterey Bay that had previously had a more southerly distribution. [ Sagarin, R., Barry, J. P., Gilman, S. E. & Baxter, C. H. Climate-related change in an intertidal community over short and long time scales. Ecol. Monogr. 69, 465-490 (1999) ] Species of lichens [van Hark, C. M., Aptroot, A. & van Dobben, H. F. Long-term monitoring in the Netherlands suggests that lichens respond to global warming. Lichenologist 34, 141-154 (2002)] , and butterflies [Parmesan, C. et al. Poleward shifts in geographical ranges of butterfly species associated with regional warming. Nature 399, 579-583 (1999)] in Europe also followed the patterns of species range shifts predicted by models of future climate change.

    These species were shown to be migrating northward and upward, to higher latitudes and sky islands. The data from this study also indicated “the dynamics at the range boundaries are expected to be more influenced by climate than are dynamics within the interior of a species range… [where] response to global warming predicts that southerly species should outperform northerly species at the same site.”

    These findings are of particular interest when considering reserve design. At the edges of a reserve, presuming that the reserve is also the species range if the species is highly threatened, climate change will be far more of a factor. Northern borders and those at higher elevations will become future battlegrounds for the conservation of the species in question, as they migrate northward and upward. The borders of today may not include the habitat of tomorrow, thus defeating the purpose of preservation by instead making the species range smaller and smaller if there are barriers to migration at the Northern and higher elevation boundaries of the reserve. Reserves could be designed to keep Northern migration a possibility, with boundaries farther to the North than might be considered practical looking at the today’s species ranges and abundances. Keeping open corridors between reserves connecting them to reserves to the North and the South is another possibility.

    Biodiversity hotspots

    According to Conservation International, the term biodiversity hotspot refers to "the richest and most threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life on Earth... To qualify as a hotspot, a region must meet two strict criteria: it must contain at least 1,500 species of vascular plants (> 0.5 percent of the world’s total) as endemics, and it has to have lost at least 70 percent of its original habitat." [] These hotspots are rapidly disappearing due to human activities, but they still have a chance of being saved if conservation measures are enacted. Biodiversity hotspots could be considered the most important places to put reserves.


    * Blake, JG; Karr, JR, "Biological Conservation" [BIOL. CONSERV.] . Vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 173-187. 1984.
    * Kurosawa and Askins 2003, "Effects of habitat fragmentation on birds in deciduous forest in Japan". Conserve Biol 17: 695-707 [7] .
    * Woodroffe and Ginsberg, 1998, "Edge effects and extinction of populations inside protected areas". Science 280:2126-2128{7]
    * Groom, Meffe and Carrol, "Principles of Conservation Biology", Sinauer Associates Inc. Publishers Sunderland Massachusetts. USA
    * Moreno: 1998, Parks in Peril: "People, Politics and Protected Areas". The Nature Conservancy Island Press, Washington DC.

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