Fine-resolution conservation planning with limited climate-change information

Payal Shah, Mindy L. Mallory, Amy W. Ando, Glenn R. Guntenspergen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Climate-change induced uncertainties in future spatial patterns of conservation-related outcomes make it difficult to implement standard conservation-planning paradigms. A recent study translates Markowitz's risk-diversification strategy from finance to conservation settings, enabling conservation agents to use this diversification strategy for allocating conservation and restoration investments across space to minimize the risk associated with such uncertainty. However, this method is information intensive and requires a large number of forecasts of ecological outcomes associated with possible climate-change scenarios for carrying out fine-resolution conservation planning. We developed a technique for iterative, spatial portfolio analysis that can be used to allocate scarce conservation resources across a desired level of subregions in a planning landscape in the absence of a sufficient number of ecological forecasts. We applied our technique to the Prairie Pothole Region in central North America. A lack of sufficient future climate information prevented attainment of the most efficient risk-return conservation outcomes in the Prairie Pothole Region. The difference in expected conservation returns between conservation planning with limited climate-change information and full climate-change information was as large as 30% for the Prairie Pothole Region even when the most efficient iterative approach was used. However, our iterative approach allowed finer resolution portfolio allocation with limited climate-change forecasts such that the best possible risk-return combinations were obtained. With our most efficient iterative approach, the expected loss in conservation outcomes owing to limited climate-change information could be reduced by 17% relative to other iterative approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-289
Number of pages12
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank an anonymous U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) referee and 2 anonymous referees for comments on the manuscript. This paper was based in part on work supported by USDA-NIFA Hatch project number ILLU-470-353 and ILLU-470-323 under cooperative agreement G12AC20056 from the USGS, by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under grant 1339944, and in part by the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Graduate University (OIST). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA, USGS, NSF, or OIST. This work was also supported by the USGS Climate and Land Use Change Research and Development Program and the USGS Ecosystem Program. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Society for Conservation Biology


  • diversificación
  • diversification
  • incertidumbre
  • manejo de recursos naturales
  • natural resource management
  • optimal reserve-site selection
  • optimización del portafolio
  • portfolio optimization
  • selección del sitio óptimo de reserva
  • uncertainty


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