Canadian Forest Service Publications
Patterns of protection and threats along productivity gradients in Canada. 2011. Andrew, M.E.; Wulder, M.A.; Coops, N.C. Biological Conservation 144: 2891-2901.
Available from: Pacific Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 32679
Available from the Journal's Web site. †
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Productivity is an important driver of broad-scale diversity gradients and community composition. Surprisingly, it is rarely used as a biodiversity proxy in protected area network assessments. In this research, we evaluate if biases exist in the locations of Canada’s protected areas with respect to productivity and assess the distribution of anthropogenic threats to protection along productivity and topographic axes. Productivity was expressed as the annual minimum and integrated fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation (fPAR) and related seasonality (defined as variation in fPAR over a year), as acquired by remote sensing. Results indicate that, overall, protected areas are slightly biased to lower productivities (higher seasonalities), but are relatively unbiased along elevation. Sites at high elevations, high seasonalities, or low productivities are extremely well represented, but they account for a very small proportion of Canada’s area overall and under protection. However, the productivity characteristics of protected areas are heterogeneous across reserve characteristics and space; biases are greater and more variable when considering individual International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categories, protected area size classes, or ecozones. The spatial and environmental correlates of anthropogenic pressures (proximity of roads and settlements in the greater park ecosystem) to protected areas in the forested ecozones were evaluated with partial linear regression models. Threats were strongly spatially structured. Reserve characteristics (productivity, elevation, size, IUCN category) shared about half of this spatial structure, explaining ~25% of the variation in threat distributions. Small and productive protected areas tended to occur closer to human populations and roads, respectively, and are thus expected to face greater threats to biodiversity. High-elevation protected areas generally occurred farther from both roads and settlements. Systematic patterns between productivity, reserve size and management goals, and anthropogenic disturbances suggest that the most productive, biodiverse areas may not yet be sufficiently protected. These analyses highlight considerations for the management of existing parks and the expansion of Canada’s protected area network.