Spatial covariance between biodiversity and other ecosystem service priorities

Barbara J. Anderson, Paul R. Armsworth, Felix Eigenbrod, Chris D. Thomas, Simon Gillings, Andreas Heinemeyer, David B. Roy, Kevin J. Gaston

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P> Ecosystems support biodiversity and also provide goods and services that are beneficial to humans. The extent to which the locations that are most valuable for ecosystem services coincide with those that support the most biodiversity is of critical importance when designing conservation and land management strategies. There are, however, few studies on which to base any kind of conclusion about possible spatial patterns of association between ecosystem services and biodiversity. Moreover, little is known about the sensitivity of the conclusions to the quality of the data available, or to the choice and size of the region used for analysis.

Here, we first present national-scale estimates of the spatial covariance in areas important for ecosystem services and biodiversity (richness of species of conservation concern), using Britain as a case study. We then explore how these associations are sensitive to the spatial resolution of the available data, the spatial extent of our study region and to regional variation across the study area.

Our analyses reveal a mixture of negative and positive associations. In particular, the regionalization analysis shows that one can arrive at diametrically opposing conclusions about relationships between ecosystem services and biodiversity by studying the same question within different areas, even within a moderately small island.

Synthesis and applications. In a policy context, the location-specific nature of relationships between ecosystem services and biodiversity underscores the importance of multi-scale environmental decision-making, so as to reflect both local conditions and broader-scale priorities. The results also suggest that efforts to establish general patterns of congruence in ecosystem services and biodiversity may offer a less constructive way forward than do more regional approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)888-896
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009


  • agriculture value
  • BAP species
  • Britain
  • carbon storage
  • conservation
  • ecosystem services
  • planning
  • recreation
  • species richness
  • trade-offs

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