Conservation targets for viable species assemblages?
Estimates of minimum areas required for effective biodiversity conservation differ substantially. Scientific reserve design and placement procedures indicate that between 30 and 75% of any region may be required to sample biodiversity features. These estimates do not routinely incorporate measures for sampling viable populations of species or explore the area requirements of sampling viable populations of species assemblages. To determine the area requirements for sampling viable populations of a herbivore assemblage, spatially explicit abundance data from the Kruger National Park, South Africa, were analyzed. Area requirements were consistently above 50% and were unaffected by selected target population sizes. In addition, area requirements appeared to be insensitive to selection unit size (analytical grain), habitat quality, the coarseness of the land classification system used or the presence of low-density species. Thus, traditional conservation area targets of 10-15% appear inadequate for representing viable populations of a herbivore assemblage from African savanna regions. This suggests that conservation targets of at least 50% of land classification units may represent a more appropriate conservation rule of thumb, or alternatively, that the use of data independent conservation targets may need to be abandoned.