The role of conservation fences

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This week’s featured research article has just been published in Conservation Biology and examines the role of conservation fences in natural resource management. The researchers state that conservation fences are an increasingly common management action, particularly for species threatened by invasive predators. However, unlike many conservation actions, fence networks are expanding in an unsystematic manner, generally as a reaction to local funding opportunities or threats. The researchers conducted a gap analysis of Australia’s large predator-exclusion fence network by examining translocation of Australian mammals relative to their extinction risk. To address gaps identified in species representation, they devised a systematic prioritization method for expanding the conservation fence network that explicitly incorporated population viability analysis and minimized expected species’ extinctions. The approach was applied to New South Wales where the state government intends to expand the existing conservation fence network. Existing protection of species in fenced areas was highly uneven; 67% of predator-sensitive species were unrepresented in the fence network. The systematic prioritization yielded substantial efficiencies in that it reduced expected number of species extinctions up to 17 times more effectively than ad hoc approaches. The researchers conclude that the outcome illustrates the importance of governance in coordinating management action when multiple projects have similar objectives and rely on systematic methods rather than expanding networks opportunistically. The article can be downloaded here.