Balancing conservation priorities for nature and for people in Europe thumbnail

Balancing conservation priorities for nature and for people in Europe

Priorities to protect nature in Europe

There is consensus among conservation scientists that protected areas should be expanded to safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem services, but it is often difficult to prioritize areas for protection. Considering factors that motivate conservation across Europe, an analysis by O’Connor et al. includes the value of species, represented by distribution of >800 vertebrate species; the cultural value of landscapes, represented by activities such as nature tourism; and the value of ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and flood protection. Although these three main features often do not coincide in the landscape, the authors found that a focus on biodiversity in spatial conservation planning is the most effective means of capturing a range of nature’s values.

Science, abc4896, this issue p. 856


There is an urgent need to protect key areas for biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people (NCP). However, different values of nature are rarely considered together in conservation planning. Here, we explore potential priority areas in Europe for biodiversity (all terrestrial vertebrates) and a set of cultural and regulating NCP while considering demand for these NCP. We quantify the spatial overlap between these priorities and their performance in representing different values of nature. We show that different priorities rarely coincide, except in certain irreplaceable ecosystems. Notably, priorities for biodiversity better represent NCP than the reverse. Theoretically, protecting an extra 5% of land has the potential to double conservation gains for biodiversity while also maintaining some essential NCP, leading to co-benefits for both nature and people.

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