|Hoffmann, S; Beierkuhnlein, C; Field, R; Provenzale, A; Chiarucci, A: Uniqueness of Protected Areas for Conservation Strategies in the European Union, Scientific Reports, 8(6445), 1-14 (2018)|
Protected areas (PAs) constitute major tools in nature conservation. In the European Union (EU), the Birds and Habitats Directives are the most important policies for conservation strategy, legally preserving Europe’s characteristic, rare, endemic and threatened biota. We used occurrence data for species listed in the directives’ Annexes to assess the uniqueness of major PAs in the EU (National Parks, Biosphere Reserves); this is important for preserving the EU’s focal species. We developed a novel, multifunctional approach to calculate different metrics of conservation value that represent different components of species diversity within the PAs, involving inventory diversity, deviation from the species–area relationship, species rarity and differentiation diversity. Applying it, we found that individual PAs frequently vary considerably in their scores on different components, which are often disconnected from PA size. PAs around the EU periphery, often containing few species, are key to conserving species that are rare in the EU. Because our analysis focuses on EU priority species and includes different components of diversity, it allows more appropriate estimation of conservation value inside PAs in context of the EU than recent, high-profile, global-level research. We offer tools to evaluate, and information to regulate, the representativeness, persistence and efficiency of PAs.