PrioriActions: prioritizing biodiversity conservation actions on a global scale

5 October 2023

The new tool is created to help democratize the design of biodiversity conservation strategies.

According to the latest IPBES global report, one in four species (for which data is available) is at risk of extinction. It is clear that we need to manage the loss of our planet’s biodiversity, as it provides us with clean air, fresh water, good quality soils, crop pollination, and even helps us combat and adapt to climate change. However, the magnitude of the problem far exceeds the real capacity for action, so how do we prioritize which areas or species to manage and how?

With this question in mind, researchers from the Landscape Dynamics and Biodiversity program at the Center for Forest Science and Technology of Catalonia (CTFC) have developed a software tool that facilitates and optimizes the design of biodiversity management strategies around the globe.

Until now, such tools only indicated where to carry out conservation actions, but PrioriActions goes one step further. The new tool allows the design of effective conservation management strategies by indicating not only where to locate conservation actions, but also which actions should be carried out in each location. This represents a qualitative advance for biodiversity management planning, as it allows management recommendations to be refined to a level not available until now.

“PrioriActions was born from the need to prioritize the scarce resources available for biodiversity conservation” explains Virgilio Hermoso, research associate at CTFC, and author of the paper published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

“We want to help administrations and managers to develop and optimize biodiversity management strategies, making accessible something that is actually very complex,” explains the scientist.  With this in mind, the authors have made PrioriActions universally accessible, available at the following link:

PrioriActions provides an easy-to-use platform to address management problems with a variety of possible solutions, allowing for a more rigorous, transparent, and reproducible identification of the spatial deployment of management actions.

With the idea of improving the prioritization of the management plans created, the team has published the PrioriActions software package on the CRAN platform, a repository of statistical tools in R (an easily accessible programming language widely used in statistics).

Exact sciences in the service of biodiversity

“Where should available management resources be invested? It is a question that leads to a complex and computationally challenging decision-making environment,” explains José Salgado, CTFC doctoral student and first author of the paper.

To overcome this challenge, the team has used exact models, an innovative strategy that has allowed them to go one step further than other conservation planning tools. Unlike the models commonly used for this type of problem (heuristics), exact models allow researchers to know how accurately the result has been reached, increasing confidence in the solution found.

“Exact models have become increasingly important as decision support tools in the field of conservation. These models give us the ability to mathematically evaluate the quality of the solutions we propose while taking advantage of the growing computational capacity available today. This combination allows us to propose more transparent and informed solutions,” concludes Salgado.

Further information:

Salgado-Rojas, J., Hermoso, V., Álvarez-Miranda, E. (2023) prioriactions: Multi-action management planning in R. Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

Last modified: 5 October 2023