An effective portfolio of protected areas should, all else being equal, give rise to positive relationships between the amount of protected land in a region and the numbers of species present. Tests of this prediction are, however, extremely scarce, and most do not control for the potentially confounding effects of environmental factors that influence broad geographic trends in biodiversity. Here, we document the form of the relationship between species richness and coverage by protected areas using the British avifauna as a case study. We contrast relationships that arise for breeding and wintering assemblages, considering both all species collectively and threatened species only. We use spatially explicit multiple regression analyses that take into account environmental factors previously shown to exert a marked influence on avian species richness in Britain (temperature and altitude). Avian species richness and the amount of protected land are consistently positively correlated with each other, and the slopes of these relationships do not differ between assemblages (breeding/wintering and all species/threatened species). Explanatory power is, however, very weak which may be indicative of the ability of conservation measures in the wider landscape to maintain avian species richness, reducing any distinctive influence of protected areas.
- Protected areas
- Species richness