Stuart L. Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, and colleagues for Britain and the United States have produced a game plan that will preserve the most plant, bird, and animal species possible using the smallest amount of land. The research was published in the Sept. 5, 2013, issue of the journal Science.
The aim of the research was initially to accommodate two primary goals of the 2010 Convention on Biological Diversity that many thought unobtainable. The goals were preservation of 60 percent of the Earth’s plant species with minimal land management and cost.
The researchers used facilities at Microsoft Research's Computational Science Laboratory in Cambridge, Britain and data on plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England to produce an algorithm that defined the areas of the world that need the most protection.
The added benefit of the approach was that in protecting the majority of plants (66 percent) the majority of birds and animals were also protected.
The researchers found that the concentration of biodiversity is greatest in 17 percent of the Earth’s surface and is most highly concentrated in areas like Madagascar, New Guinea, Ecuador, some areas in Africa, Central America, parts of Asia, and the Caribbean.
The idea is that once the smallest area is defined that produces the greatest preservation of species governments will be more willing to take measures to preserve the land and the plants and wildlife.