Effects of cost metric on cost‐effectiveness of protected‐area network design in urban landscapes
A common goal in conservation planning is to acquire areas that are critical to realizing biodiversity goals in the most cost‐effective manner. The way monetary acquisition costs are represented in such planning is an understudied but vital component to realizing cost efficiencies. We sought to design a protected‐area network within a forested urban region that would protect 17 birds of conservation concern. We compared the total costs and spatial structure of the optimal protected‐area networks produced using three acquisition‐cost surrogates (area, agricultural land value, and tax‐assessed land value). Using the tax‐assessed land values there was a 73% and 78% cost savings relative to networks derived using area or agricultural land value, respectively. This cost reduction was due to the considerable heterogeneity in acquisition costs revealed in tax‐assessed land values, especially for small land parcels, and the corresponding ability of the optimization algorithm to identify lower‐cost parcels for inclusion that had equal value to our target species. Tax‐assessed land values also reflected the strong spatial differences in acquisition costs (US$0.33/m2–$55/m2) and thus allowed the algorithm to avoid inclusion of high‐cost parcels when possible. Our results add to a nascent but growing literature that suggests conservation planners must consider the cost surrogate they use when designing protected‐area networks. We suggest that choosing cost surrogates that capture spatial‐ and size‐dependent heterogeneity in acquisition costs may be relevant to establishing protected areas in urbanizing ecosystems.
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