UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Systematic conservation planning in human-dominated landscapes : maximizing efficiency in biodiversity conservation via carbon sequestration and land management Schuster, Richard


Investments in habitat and biodiversity conservation are critically needed given mounting effects of global climate change and unprecedented rates of ecological degradation and species extinction. However, as more regions of the world are converted to human use, we are also experiencing a shift in the traditional targets of conservation from protecting ‘ecologically intact’ landscapes to restoring degraded habitat by prioritizing conservation investments under triage. The overall goal of this thesis was to evaluate alternative ways of funding conservation initiatives. To reach that goal, I first used 1,770 avian point counts in a 2,520 km2 study area, remote-sensed data and models incorporating imperfect detectability to predict habitat occupancy in 47 widely-distributed native birds, which were also classified by experts according to their habitat association. Forest and Savannah association scores for these species were then used as weights in a composite distribution map of species communities. My results showed that composite maps of widespread indicators improve site prioritization by incorporating the behavioural and demographic responses of a diverse range of indicators to variation in patch size, configuration and adjacent human land use. Using these composite maps, I asked how the sale of forest carbon credits could reduce land acquisition costs, and how the alternate goals of maximizing α or β-diversity in focal communities could affect the prioritization of parcels for acquisition. My results indicate that carbon sales have the potential to enhance conservation outcomes in human-dominated landscapes by reducing the net acquisition costs of land conservation. Maximizing β versus α-diversity may further reduce costs by reducing the total area required to meet conservation targets and enhancing landscape heterogeneity. In cases where land purchase is not an option, private land conservation covenants can provide an alternative; although serious questions exist about long-term monitoring and enforcement costs of covenants given the risk that owners might violate or challenge them in court. My findings suggest that violation or dispute rate can substantially affect long-term costs of covenants and potentially surpass the cost of land purchase. Overall, I tested several ways to successfully fund conservation investments and highlight potential benefits and shortfalls of each.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada