Summary We tested the effects of four data characteristics on the results of reserve selection algorithms. The data characteristics were nestedness of features (land types in this case), rarity of features, size variation of sites (potential reserves) and size of data sets (numbers of sites and features). We manipulated data sets to produce three levels, with replication, of each of these data characteristics while holding the other three characteristics constant. We then used an optimizing algorithm and three heuristic algorithms to select sites to solve several reservation problems. We measured efficiency as the number or total area of selected sites, indicating the relative cost of a reserve system. Higher nestedness increased the efficiency of all algorithms (reduced the total cost of new reserves). Higher rarity reduced the efficiency of all algorithms (increased the total cost of new reserves). More variation in site size increased the efficiency of all algorithms expressed in terms of total area of selected sites. We measured the suboptimality of heuristic algorithms as the percentage increase of their results over optimal (minimum possible) results. Suboptimality is a measure of the reliability of heuristics as indicative costing analyses. Higher rarity reduced the suboptimality of heuristics (increased their reliability) and there is some evidence that more size variation did the same for the total area of selected sites. We discuss the implications of these results for the use of reserve selection algorithms as indicative and real‐world planning tools.
Journal of Biogeography – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 1999