Global status of and prospects for protection of terrestrial geophysical diversity

Sanderson, E., Segan, D.B. and J.E.M. Watson (2015). Global status of and prospects for protection of terrestrial geophysical diversity. Conservation Biology, 29: 649-656.

Conservation of representative facets of geophysical diversity may help conserve biological diversity as the climate changes. We conducted a global classification of terrestrial geophysical diversity and analyzed how land protection varies across geophysical diversity types. Geophysical diversity was classified in terms of soil type, elevation, and biogeographic realm and then compared to the global distribution of protected areas in 2012. We found that 300 (45%) of 672 broad geophysical diversity types currently meet the Convention on Biological Diversity's Aichi Target 11 of 17% terrestrial areal protection, which suggested that efforts to implement geophysical diversity conservation have a substantive basis on which to build. However, current protected areas were heavily biased toward high elevation and low fertility soils. We assessed 3 scenarios of protected area expansion and found that protection focused on threatened species, if fully implemented, would also protect an additional 29% of geophysical diversity types, ecoregional-focused protection would protect an additional 24%, and a combined scenario would protect an additional 42%. Future efforts need to specifically target low-elevation sites with productive soils for protection and manage for connectivity among geophysical diversity types. These efforts may be hampered by the sheer number of geophysical diversity facets that the world contains, which makes clear target setting and prioritization an important next step.

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