During the past decade or two, spatial prioritization methods and software have been developed that can integrate large amounts of data in ecologically based spatial planning. Applications of these analyses include, for example, design of expansion of conservation area networks, ecological impact avoidance in infrastructure and other development projects, and land use zoning. The basic building block of these analyses is spatial data describing the distributions of many biodiversity features, including species and habitat types. Additional data about threats may be used to focus priorities either to areas that are threatened by anthoropogenic pressures, or to areas that presently are safely away from pressures. Data about costs and opportunity costs can be included to promote cost efficient solutions, which also are desirable from a societal perspective. Recently, there has been focus design of green (blue) infrasturcture and inclusion of ecosystem services into joint analyses together with biodiversity. It is a characteristic of ecosystem services that their connectivity requirements are more complicated than connectivity requirements of species or habitats. This is because accessibility of ecosystem seervices and their equitable availability to people generate connectivity requirements that are additional to the ecological connectivity requirements needed for the maintenance of ecosystem service provision.
In this presentation I review the possibilities of large-scale ecologically based spatial prioritization and planning. Presently, our analytical capability will typically exceed the quality of the underlying data, meaning that data availability and quality are the factors that primarily limit the utility of analyses. Even so, data availability is fast improving, and well-informed ecological impact avoidance can be implemented in societal decision making if the political will to do so exists.
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