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Measuring Protected-Area Isolation and Correlations of Isolation with Land-Use Intensity and Protection Status


Proulx,  Raphael
Research Group Organismic Biogeochemistry, Dr. C. Wirth, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Seiferling, I. S., Proulx, R., Peres-Neto, P. R., Fahrig, L., & Messier, C. (2012). Measuring Protected-Area Isolation and Correlations of Isolation with Land-Use Intensity and Protection Status. Conservation Biology, 26(4), 610-618. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2011.01674.x.

Protected areas cover over 12% of the terrestrial surface of Earth, and yet many fail to protect species and ecological processes as originally envisioned. Results of recent studies suggest that a critical reason for this failure is an increasing contrast between the protected lands and the surrounding matrix of often highly altered land cover. We measured the isolation of 114 protected areas distributed worldwide by comparing vegetation-cover heterogeneity inside protected areas with heterogeneity outside the protected areas. We quantified heterogeneity as the contagion of greenness on the basis of NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) values, for which a higher value of contagion indicates less heterogeneous land cover. We then measured isolation as the difference between mean contagion inside the protected area and mean contagion in 3 buffer areas of increasing distance from the protected-area border. The isolation of protected areas was significantly positive in 110 of the 114 areas, indicating that vegetation cover was consistently more heterogeneous 1020 km outside protected areas than inside their borders. Unlike previous researchers, we found that protected areas in which low levels of human activity are allowed were more isolated than areas in which high levels are allowed. Our method is a novel way to assess the isolation of protected areas in different environmental contexts and regions.