Limited resources and conservation actionsConservation actions, such as biodiversity monitoring, wildlife disease monitoring, capacity building or the evaluation and improvement of the effectiveness of current conservation networks in protecting biodiversity, could largely benefit from intelligible resource allocation. The national responsibility approach helps to identify biodiversity data gaps and therefore has the potential to guide capacity building efforts.
The national responsibility methodThe method to determine national responsibilities (Schmeller 2008a,b,c, 2012) comprises three decision steps (Figure 1). Firstly, the assessment unit is defined based on the underlying concepts and definitions chosen by the user; secondly, the current distribution pattern of a species or habitat is determined, meaning its range within and across biogeographic and environmental regions as an approximation of its adaptability to different environmental conditions. The third step determines the importance of the distribution of the defined assessment unit within a focal area as compared to the total distribution in a reference area, determining the expected and observed distribution and allowing geographic scaling. The distribution pattern and the expected value of occurrence together reflect the importance of a focal area for the global persistence of the defined assessment unit.
Figure 1: The three steps of the national responsibility approach from Schmeller et al. 2008b.While the data needs of the method are not very high, several difficulties were recently described which could hamper the application to biodiversity in general (Schmeller et al. 2014 (in press)). Most of these difficulties arise from the lack of agreed data standards and harmonization during the collection and processing of biodiversity data, but might be overcome quickly by different projects and initiatives building regional and global biodiversity observation networks. Therefore, the determination of conservation responsibilities should be feasible and can already be done for all species for which distribution data is available via the IUCN database, which currently covers more than 70,000 species. To facilitate the task, a GIS module has been developed for both ARC-GIS and QGIS software, to automate the determination of conservation responsibilities.
The GIS-tool to determine conservation responsibilitiesThe National Responsibility Tool (NRT) uses a GIS-based approach to determine the international importance of a species distribution area in a focal area (Schmeller et al. 2008a,b; 2012). The assessment is based on the bioclimatic map developed by Metzger et al. (2013). As input data, the NRT requires a map of the global distribution of the species, habitat or ecosystem, a map of the reference area, and a map of the focal area, usually country borders, in the widely used shapefile format (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Interface of the National Responsibility Tool (NRT).The NRT ranks the species according to the conservation responsibilities it calculates and allows the results to be displayed as vector maps with a table of the results on a GIS platform, which can either be ARC-GIS (ESRI) or QGIS (open source) (Figure 3). The NRT can also combine the conservation responsibility rank with the IUCN Red List status. These complementary assessments would allow determining the conservation priorities of species by nations or other focal areas.
Figure 3: Examples of the output of the National Responsibility Tool for two Asian bird species. (A) National Responsibility and (B) Conservation Priority for the Fairy Pitta (Pitta brachyura), (C) National Responsibility and (D) Conservation Priority for the Hooded Pitta (Pitta sordida).
AcknowledgementsThe development of NRT was supported by the ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan to Yu-Pin Lin under Contract No. NSC 101-2923-I-002-001-MY2. This work was also supported by a EU/FP7 grant N° 226852 (SCALES). Douglas Evans is funded by the European Environment Agency as part of its contract with the European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity.
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