Weighing conservation objectives: Maximum expected coverage versus endangered species protection

Jeffrey L. Arthur, Jeffrey D. Camm, Robert G. Haight, Claire A. Montgomery, Stephen Polasky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Decision makers involved in land acquisition and protection often have multiple conservation objectives and are uncertain about the occurrence of species or other features in candidate sites. Models informing decisions on selection of sites for reserves need to provide information about cost-efficient trade-offs between objectives and account for incidence uncertainty. We describe a site selection model with two important conservation objectives: maximize expected number of species represented, and maximize the likelihood that a subset of endangered species is represented. The model uses probabilistic species occurrence data in a linear-integer formulation solvable with commercial software. The model is illustrated using probabilistic occurrence data for 403 terrestrial vertebrates in 147 candidate sites in western Oregon, USA. The trade-offs between objectives are explicitly measured by incrementally varying the threshold probability for endangered species representation and recording the change in expected number of species represented. For instance, in the example presented here, we found that under most budget constraints, the probability of representing three endangered species can be increased from 0.00 (i.e., no guaranteed protection) to 0.90 while reducing expected species representation ∼2%. However, further increasing the probability of endangered species representation from 0.90 to 0.99 results in a much larger reduction in species representation of ∼14%. Although the numerical results from our analysis are specific to the species and area studied, the methodology is general and applicable elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1936-1945
Number of pages10
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004


  • Conservation
  • Endangered species
  • Goal trade-offs
  • Optimization
  • Oregon
  • Site selection model
  • Species representation


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