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Utilizing multi-objective decision support tools for protected area selection

Alke Voskamp, Susanne A. Fritz, Valerie Köcke, Matthias F. Biber, Timo Nogueira Brockmeyer, Bastian Bertzky, Matthew Forrest, Allie Goldstein, Scott Henderson, Thomas Hickler, Christian Hof, Thomas Kastner, Stefanie Lang, Peter Manning, Michael B. Mascia, Ian R. McFadden, Aidin Niamir, Monica Noon, Brian O’Donnell, Mark Opel, Georg Schwede, Peyton West, Christof Schenck, Katrin Böhning-Gaese

One Earth, 6, 1143-1156

September 01, 2023

Establishing and maintaining protected areas (PAs) is a key action in delivering post-2020 biodiversity targets. PAs often need to meet multiple objectives, ranging from biodiversity protection to ecosystem service provision and climate change mitigation, but available land and conservation funding is limited. Therefore, optimizing resources by selecting the most beneficial PAs is vital. Here, we advocate for a flexible and transparent approach to selecting PAs based on multiple objectives, and illustrate this with a decision support tool on a global scale. The tool allows weighting and prioritization of different conservation objectives according to user-specified preferences as well as real-time comparison of the outcome. Applying the tool across 1,346 terrestrial PAs, we demonstrate that decision makers frequently face trade-offs among conflicting objectives, e.g., between species protection and ecosystem integrity. Nevertheless, we show that transparent decision support tools can reveal synergies and trade-offs associated with PA selection, thereby helping to illuminate and resolve land-use conflicts embedded in divergent societal and political demands and values.

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Voskamp, A., Fritz, S. A., Köcke, V., Biber, M. F., Nogueira Brockmeyer, T., Bertzky, B., Forrest, M., Goldstein, A., Henderson, S., Hickler, T., Hof, C., Kastner, T., Lang, S., Manning, P., Mascia, M. B., McFadden, I. R., Niamir, A., Noon, M., O’Donnell, B., … Böhning-Gaese, K. (2023). Utilizing multi-objective decision support tools for protected area selection. One Earth, 6(9), 1143–1156.