The time path of investments for the management of protected area
Many nature conservation organizations focus on creating protected areas that they acquire and then manage themselves. By doing so, they have to sustain a wide variety of costs. Understanding and ultimately being able to predict costs that accrue over the long term is important for these organizations. Indeed many studies aiming at prioritizing sites for conservation now consider protected area costs and their spatial heterogeneity. Here we focus on recurrent costs associated with managing protected areas because these may outweigh other cost components (e.g. acquisition cost) and become the main driver of investments when considering longer terms, potentially varying by several orders of magnitude with extreme spatial heterogeneity, which has obvious implications when selecting sites for acquisition. To date, studies of protected area management costs have failed to describe how management investments change over time. Instead, most studies estimate management costs at one point in time, across sites that may have been protected for differing amounts of time. Here, we surveyed management costs incurred over ten years for Central and Southern Appalachian (U.S.) protected areas acquired by a large land trust, The Nature Conservancy.
First we highlight how investments in site management change through time, as well as their association with various site characteristics - size, shape and elevation, dominant habitat type, conservation goal and level of disturbance. Then, we compare such expenditure and corresponding patterns to resulting ecological benefits, as assessed through a combination of field-work and remote sensing data. Finally, we draw from this analysis to guide decision making and site prioritization for conservation.