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Spatial assessment and mapping of biodiversity and conservation priorities in a heavily modified and fragmented production landscape in north-central Victoria, Australia

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Human impacts on the natural environment have resulted in a steady decline in biodiversity and associated ecosystem services. A major policy and management challenge is to efficiently allocate limited resources for nature conservation to maximise biodiversity benefits. Spatial assessment and mapping of biodiversity value plays a vital role in identifying key areas for conservation and establishing conservation priorities. This study measured biodiversity value using readily available data and tools in order to identify conservation priority sites in a heavily modified and fragmented production landscape. The study also assessed trade-offs among biodiversity and other ecosystem services. We used spatial tools for assessing and mapping biodiversity such as Patch Analyst in ArcGIS 10.2 to assess landscape alteration states, and the Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs to identify habitat quality. Results indicated that areas of high biodiversity conservation value were concentrated in less modified land-cover types. Substantially modified land-cover types (generally associated with agriculture and irrigated pastures) had lower habitat quality and biodiversity value. The analysis revealed that assessments based solely on habitat condition may not be the most suitable basis for conservation planning because this does not include associated adjacent land uses, roads or other threats to biodiversity. Spatially targeted environmental plantings and less intensive agroforestry that reconnect native remnants in heavily fragmented landscapes can provide significant potential conservation outcomes. Planned landscape reconfiguration based on readily available spatial data can yield net positive benefits to biodiversity by halting degradation of remnant native vegetation and increasing total habitat area.
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DOI:
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2013.09.022
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