We analyzed the conservation status of 73 vegetation cover types distributed across a 1.76 million km2 region in 10 states of the western USA. We found that 25 vegetation cover types had at least 10% of their area in nature reserves. These were generally plant communities located at higher elevations and thus more commonly associated with national parks and wilderness areas. All but three of the remaining 48 cover types occurred with sufficient area on publically owned lands in the region to imply that transforming land management intent on these lands could also increase their protection. We also analyzed the level of protection afforded each cover type across its entire geographic distribution in the region. Most cover types that were at least minimally protected in total across the region were also at least minimally protected in most areas of their occurrence. Our results show that there is a realistic opportunity to design a system of biodiversity reserves in this region that represent the full range of environmental conditions in which the various plant communities occur. Conducting this type of broad-scale analysis is a necessary first step in that process and provides a database for others to work from. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.
Additional publication details
Identifying unprotected and potentially at risk plant communities in the western USA