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Integrating priority areas and ecological corridors into national network for conservation planning in China

Liang, Jie, He, Xinyue, Zeng, Guangming, Zhong, Minzhou, Gao, Xiang, Li, Xin, Li, Xiaodong, Wu, Haipeng, Feng, Chunting, Xing, Wenle, Fang, Yilong, Mo, Dan
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.626 pp. 22-29
algorithms, biodiversity, biological corridors, computer software, conservation areas, habitat connectivity, humans, land cover, mountains, planning, plateaus, prioritization, urbanization, China, Yangtze River
Considering that urban expansion and increase of human activities represent important threats to biodiversity and ecological processes in short and long term, developing protected area (PA) network with high connectivity is considered as a valuable conservation strategy. However, conservation planning associated with the large-scale network in China involves important information loopholes about the land cover and landscape connectivity. In this paper, we made an integrative analysis for the identification of conservation priority areas and least-cost ecological corridors (ECs) in order to promote a more representative, connected and efficient ecological PA network for this country. First, we used Zonation, a spatial prioritization software, to achieve a hierarchical mask and selected the top priority conservation areas. Second, we identified optimal linkages between two patches as corridors based on least-cost path algorithm. Finally, we proposed a new framework of China's PA network composed of conservation priority and ECs in consideration of high connectivity between areas. We observed that priority areas identified here cover 12.9% of the region, distributed mainly in mountainous and plateau areas, and only reflect a spatial mismatch of 19% with the current China's nature reserves locations. From the perspective of conservation, our result provide the need to consider new PA categories, specially located in the south (e.g., the middle-lower Yangtze River area, Nanling and Min-Zhe-Gan Mountains) and north regions (e.g., Changbai Mountains), in order to construct an optimal and connected national network in China. This information allows us better opportunities to identify the relative high-quality patches and draft the best conservation plan for the China's biodiversity in the long-term run.