Evaluating the impact of future actions in minimizing vegetation loss from land conversion in the Brazilian Cerrado under climate change

The global network of protected areas (PAs) is systematically biased towards remote and
unproductive places. Consequently, the processes threatening biodiversity are not halted
and conservation impact—defined as the beneficial environmental outcomes arising from
protection relative to the counterfactual of no intervention—is smaller than previously
thought. Yet, many conservation plans still target species’ representation, which can fail
to lead to impact by not considering the threats they face, such as land conversion and
climate change. Here we aimed to identify spatial conservation priorities that minimize
the risk of land conversion, while retaining sites with high value for threatened plants at
risk from climate change in the Brazilian Cerrado. We compared a method of sequential
implementation of conservation actions to a static strategy applied at one time-step. For
both schedules of conservation actions, we applied two methods for setting priorities:
(i) minimizing expected habitat conversion and prioritizing valuable sites for threatened
plants (therefore maximizing conservation impact), and (ii) prioritizing sites based only on
their value for threatened plants, regardless of their vulnerability to land conversion (therefore
maximizing representation). We found that scenarios aimed at maximizing conservation
impact reduced total vegetation loss, while still covering large proportions of species’
ranges inside PAs and priority sites. Given that planning to avoid vegetation loss provided
these benefits, vegetation information could represent a reliable surrogate for overall biodiversity.
Besides allowing for the achievement of two distinct goals (representation and
impact), the impact strategies also present

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