Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 733–748 | Cite as

The effect of target setting on conservation in Canada’s boreal: what is the right amount of area to protect?

  • Yolanda F. Wiersma
  • Darren J. H. Sleep
Original Paper


Conservation of Canada’s boreal forest has been tied to various campaigns advocating specific area-based targets as part of a broader Systematic Conservation Planning (SCP) effort. Although target setting is an important component of SCP, it is known that the final outcomes of conservation plans are sensitive to the target chosen. There have been few systematic evaluations of how these outcomes change with targets. Here, we use distribution of terrestrial mammals in the Boreal Shield Ecozone of Canada to assess the effects of targets on conservation plans with individual sites that are predicted to be large enough to allow for species persistence. We examine three types of targets; percentage of landscape, percentage of umbrella species range, and minimum number of sites, to see how the final set (in terms of numbers of sites and percent of land) is affected and how well the final set represents the full suite of mammal species. We found a large discrepancy (164,000 km2) in the land required to achieve minimal representation targets depending on the target used. The minimum number of sites target was most efficient and required only 1.25% of the ecozone, while the smallest percentage target that could capture all species was 10%. The use of an umbrella species (caribou, Rangifer tarandas) range was the least effective target, as several species could not be represented at any percentage of the umbrella species range. Thus, conservation planners working in the boreal should be mindful of the impacts their targets have on the final design.


Conservation planning Percent target Biodiversity Mammals Species-at-risk Effectiveness Efficiency 



This work was supported by funding from the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement. Mammal data were provided by NatureServe ( and its network of natural heritage member programs, a leading source of information about rare and endangered species, and threatened ecosystems. Marxan is provided through the University of Queensland and was created by Ian Ball, Matt Watts and Hugh Possingham. Thanks to S.J. Leroux and K. Vice for helpful comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. Reviews by S. Cumming and one anonymous reviewer greatly improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyMemorial UniversitySt. John’sCanada
  2. 2.National Council for Air and Stream ImprovementMontrealCanada

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