Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 467–492 | Cite as

Suitability for conservation as a criterion in regional conservation network selection

  • Hope C. Humphries
  • Patrick S. Bourgeron
  • Keith M. Reynolds
Original Paper


The process of selecting candidate areas for inclusion in a regional conservation network should include not only delineating appropriate land units for selection and defining targets for representing features of interest, but also determining the suitability of land units for conservation purposes. We developed an explicit rating of conservation suitability by applying fuzzy-logic functions in a knowledge base to ecological condition and socio-economic attributes of land units in the interior Columbia River basin, USA. Suitability was converted to unsuitability to comprise a cost criterion in selecting regional conservation networks. When unsuitability was the sole cost criterion or was combined with land area as cost, only about one-third of the area selected was rated suitable, due to inclusion of unsuitable land to achieve representation of conservation targets (vegetation cover-type area). Selecting only from land units rated suitable produced networks that were 100% suitable, reasonably efficient, and most likely to be viable and defensible, as represented in our knowledge-based system. However, several conservation targets were not represented in these networks. The tradeoff between suitability and effectiveness in representing targets suggests that a multi-stage process should be implemented to address both attributes of candidate conservation networks. The suitability of existing conservation areas was greater than that of most alternative candidate networks, but 59% of land units containing conservation areas received a rating of unsuitable, due in part to the presence of units only partially occupied by conservation areas, in which unsuitability derived from conditions in non-conserved areas.


Conservation suitability Regional conservation network Knowledge base Fuzzy logic Unsuitability rating Cost scenario Conservation planning unit Vegetation cover type 



Knowledge base


Existing conservation area


Interior Columbia River basin


Ecosystem Management Decision Support



Primary funding was provided to P.S. Bourgeron and H.C. Humphries by a Science To Achieve Results grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“Multi-scaled Assessment Methods: Prototype Development within the Interior Columbia Basin”). Additional funding to P.S. Bourgeron to complete the work and manuscript was provided by the U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Analysis and Monitoring program and the International Visiting Blaise Pascal Chair based at Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris, France. We thank Frank W. Davis for early discussions on the structure of the knowledge bases and selection algorithms.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hope C. Humphries
    • 1
  • Patrick S. Bourgeron
    • 1
  • Keith M. Reynolds
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Arctic and Alpine ResearchUniversity of Colorado at BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Corvallis Forestry Sciences LaboratoryU.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research StationCorvallisUSA

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