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Development of a scoring method to identify important areas of plant diversity in Ireland
- Walsh, A., Sullivan, C.A., Waldren, S., Finn, J.A.
- Journal for nature conservation 2019 v.47 pp. 1-11
- conservation areas, conservation status, landscapes, prioritization, species diversity, vascular plants, Ireland
- In the face of accelerating biodiversity loss it is more important than ever to identify important areas of biodiversity and target limited resources for conservation. We developed a method to identify areas of important plant diversity using known species’ distributions and evaluations of the species importance. We collated distribution records of vascular plants and developed a scoring method of spatial prioritisation to assign conservation value to the island of Ireland at the hectad scale (10 km × 10 km) and at the tetrad scale (2 km × 2 km) for two counties where sufficient data were available. Each plant species was assigned a species conservation value based on both its conservation status and distribution in Ireland. For each cell, the species conservation values within the cell were summed, thereby differentiating between areas of high and low conservation value across the landscape. Areas with high conservation value represent the most important areas for plant conservation.The protected area cover and the number of species present in these important areas were also examined by first defining threshold values using two different criteria. Species representation was high in the important areas; the identified important areas of plant diversity maintained high representation of species of conservation concern and achieved high species representation overall, requiring a low number of sites (<8%) to do so. The coincidence of protected areas and important areas for plant diversity was found to be low and while some important areas of plant diversity might benefit from the general protection afforded by these areas, our research highlights the need for conservation outside of protected areas.