Abstract. Protected areas provide a corner-stone in efforts to conserve biodiversity in the face of ongoing habitat loss and degradation. Existing protected area networks need to be greatly expanded if we are to meet species and habitat conservation goals. However, available funding to support the establishment of protected areas is limited and it is imperative that funds are targeted in ways that provide the greatest conservation gain per dollar invested. To do so, conservation organizations need to consider both the economic costs and the ecological benefits of protecting land. Using a case study of areas protected to conserve forested ecosystems in the US by The Nature Conservancy, I examine how considering costs and benefits of protected areas together changes recommendations regarding what locations should be prioritized for protection and how protected areas should be designed. I also show how recommendations one would arrive at regarding protected area design depend on the “quality” of cost and benefit data used and the particular choice of conservation target. Finally, I outline ways that the science behind conservation planning can become more relevant to the practice of land protection moving forward.
Biography. Paul Armsworth (web.utk.edu/~parmswor, firstname.lastname@example.org) is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where he is also affiliated with the National Science Foundation’s National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis. A modeler by training, Paul has worked on numerous topics in conservation science. He has a particular emphasis on how ecology and economics can be combined to make more effective conservation decisions.