The Agulhas Plain on the southern tip of South Africa falls within the world’s “hottest” hot‐spot of plant diversity and endemism. Fynbos communities and renoster shrubland form the dominant vegetation types on the plain, but these have been severely fragmented by agriculture, alien plant invasions, and coastal resort development. Most of the vegetation communities are under‐represented within existing protected areas, and most of the land is privately owned. We recommend that a contractual national park, involving both private and public land owners, be established on the plain, and we have developed a reserve‐selection algorithm that provides a flexible tool for selecting representative areas for protection. The algorithm is a stepwise heuristic, with rules for including mandatory areas, forcing adjacency, and excluding undesirable areas. The selection units of the algorithm are 3 × 3 km cells, and the goal of the algorithm is to simultaneously select different target areas ( percentages of total areas) of 11 vegetation types, as well as one population of each of the 99 endemic species, in the smallest area possible. Eight variations of the algorithm were run to provide flexibility in the results. Between 55 and 61 cells (out of a total of 193) were selected, 45 of which were common to all variations. Invoking the adjacency rule, or avoiding alien cells, costs less than 5% extra area. Six of the vegetation types are close to their targets, and the remaining 5 are over‐represented by between 46–166%. Percentage over‐representation is negatively and significantly correlated with percentage target. Between 72–78% of endemic species are represented more than once in the final sets of cells, and the gamma diversity of the Agulhas Plain is incidentally accommodated for. We suggest that the 45 cells common to all algorithm variations form the core of the contractual national park. Final reserve boundaries will differ from those of the selection units, so, as management boundaries are progressively defined, the algorithm can be rerun to account for the changes in the reserved areas of target features. We thus provide a dynamic and flexible tool for reevaluating priorities during the development of a park.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Oct 16, 1997
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