This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ Preprints) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.
Background. The establishment of protected areas, regarded today as a cornerstone of nature conservation, resulted from a multiple array of motivations and opportunities. We explore at global and regional levels, the current distribution of protected areas along biophysical, human, and biological gradients, and assess to what extent protection pursued (i) a balanced representation of biophysical environments, (ii) a set of preferred conditions (biological, spiritual, economical, or geopolitical) or (iii) lands where conservation opportunities exist. Methods. We described with histograms the distribution of terrestrial protected areas along physical, human, and biological independent gradients. Linear and non-linear regressions and correlations led to a general description of sign, shape, and strength of the relationships; a random forest analysis led to a importance ranking of the variables related to individual preferential motivations and opportunistic forces; and an evenness metric seized the strength of variables related to individual representative motivations. Results. We found that globally protection was primarily driven by the opportunities provided by isolation and a low population density (variable importance = 34.6 and 19.9, respectively). Preferences played a secondary role, with a bias towards tourist attractions and international borders (variable importance = 12.7 and 3.4, respectively). Opportunities shaped protection strongly in North America & Australia–NZ and Latin America & Caribbean, while the representativeness of biophysical environments was higher in Sub-Saharan Africa (1.3 times the average of other regions). Discussion. Our results suggest that in spite of being a top priority in land conservation agendas, environmental representativeness and biodiversity protection are still minor players driving protection at global and regional levels, and that the attempts to increase their relevance will necessarily have to recognize the predominant weight that other drivers are playing in the protected areas deployment.
"Following" is like subscribing to any updates related to a preprint.
These updates will appear in your home dashboard each time you visit PeerJ.
You can also choose to receive updates via daily or weekly email digests.
If you are following multiple preprints then we will send you
no more than one email per day or week based on your preferences.
Note: You are now also subscribed to the subject areas of this preprint
and will receive updates in the daily or weekly email digests if turned on.
You can add specific subject areas through your profile settings.