1 <h5>Introduction</h5> One of the outcomes of research into systematic conservation planning in recent years is the concept of irreplaceability ( Pressey et al., 1993, 1994 ), developed in response to a limitation of reserve selection algorithms. Selection algorithms can efficiently select a set of areas to achieve a nominated conservation goal but provide little or no information on the potential contribution to that goal of the unselected areas in a region ( Pressey et al., 1997 ). Consequently, they generally do not indicate optional replacements for selected areas which could become unsuitable or unavailable for conservation management (but see Bedward et al., 1992; Rebelo and Siegfried, 1992; Rebelo, 1994a; Williams et al., 1996a,b ). The alternative sets of areas that can achieve a conservation goal in a region can be very numerous ( Rebelo and Siegfried, 1992; Pressey et al., 1994; Rebelo, 1994a ). Other things being equal, they will increase with the number of areas in a region that are available for conservation ( Pressey et al., 1994 ), but will decrease as conservation targets for species or habitats become larger ( Pressey, 1998 ), or when more species or habitats are narrowly distributed ( Rebelo,
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