This is the ESS 440 Land Protection team, and today, we will be talking about biodiversity hotspots and the benefits of large-scale land protection. These definitions will help shape the analysis and research foci for the rest of this project, and these definitions can provide stakeholders and the interested public an idea of where protection efforts make the most impact. First, biodiversity hotspots are considered a “global set of high-priority terrestrial ecoregions for conservation” (Cincotta, 2000). While hotspots are incredibly important for biodiversity protection, they only encompass a small area of the planet and a slim number of threatened and endangered species. In addition, global versus local protection of hotspots varies: for Colorado, hotspot protection is not as great of a concern than it is for areas with higher population densities and/or higher species richness levels (Myers et. al, 2000).
Biodiversity hotspots and other significant ecosystems can be protected using multiple methods of management. One of the more common methods of protected area management that people think of is through federal lands, such as Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land, or ecological reserves, such as National Parks, National Monuments, etc. The justification for land protection does not have to be limited to conservation purposes; other reasons for protecting a place include land sustainability, subsistence agriculture, outdoor recreation and tourism, preservation of cultural values, interpretation, and limited resource extraction (Brooks et. al, 2015). However, just because a site is labeled as protected does not necessarily mean that the biodiversity present in the area is well protected. This concept is one that we hope to dive into more with this project by looking at disturbance effects seen within protected areas and the possible implications this could have on biodiversity health. In addition, since Colorado has a growing population, it is also important to note that protected area management can occur through conservation developments, or “sets of land development techniques aimed at minimizing the impacts on natural resources” (Feinberg et. al, 2015). With population pressures expected to continue increasing throughout the state, this idea of developing sustainably will only become more essential for biodiversity health in the future.
Nonetheless, it is necessary for landowners and conservationists to continue protecting ecosystems within Colorado for more than just the biodiversity benefits. First off, land protection can provide enormous economic stimuli to landowners and states. The cost of recovering biodiversity loss actually outweighs the price of protecting ecosystems before causing too much damage, and this is a trend seen globally and within Colorado (Myers et. al, 2000), (“Investing in Colorado”). Some stakeholders believe that land protection leads to greater expenses, difficulties in measuring usage effectively, and greater land restrictions, but this does not have to be the case depending on the level of protection established (Brooks et. al, 2015). As a result of these economic benefits, landowners who are struggling should consider setting aside even a small portion of their land for protection, because every small parcel of land will contribute to a stronger economy and network of healthy ecosystems. In addition to the monetary value of biodiversity protection, there are numerous social and cultural benefits that land protection can provide as well. Some of these include the aesthetic purposes (example: City Park), recreational purposes (example: Horsetooth State Park), archaeological and historical artifact protection purposes (example: Mesa Verde National Park), and more. These categories of land protection benefits can certainly overlap, and the justification for protection can be greater if more than one category can be fulfilled by protecting a certain site. And, all of these benefits, regardless of land protection size, can have some economic benefit to an area long-term.
In the end, land protection and biodiversity hotspots are necessary ideas that stakeholders need to consider within their own property for both the necessity of protection and benefits that it can provide to people and surrounding ecosystems. As we dive more into this research, we will continue to update this blog with any additional findings.
Want to read more about biodiversity hotspots, land protection classifications, or the benefits of biodiversity protection? Check out the sources below. In addition, if you have any comments or questions about our project, feel free to leave a comment or send an email to the CNHP team.
Brooks, J. J., Dvorak, R. G., Spindler, M., & Miller, S. (2015). Relationship‐scale conservation. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 39(1), 147-158.
Cincotta, R. P., Wisnewski, J., & Engelman, R. (2000). Human population in the biodiversity hotspots. Nature, 404(6781), 990-992.
Feinberg, D. S., Hostetler, M. E., Reed, S. E., Pienaar, E. F., & Pejchar, L. (2015). Evaluating management strategies to enhance biodiversity in conservation developments: perspectives from developers in Colorado, USA. Landscape and Urban Planning, 136, 87-96.
Myers, N., Mittermeier, R. A., Mittermeier, C. G., Da Fonseca, G. A., & Kent, J. (2000). Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature, 403(6772), 853.