Dear MPA News:

The piece by Peter Kareiva on lessons from terrestrial conservation (MPA News 6:1) fails to explicitly state that its focus is biodiversity conservation, rather than some other target such as wilderness or recreational value, as pointed out in Brad Barr’s letter in response (6:2). It is also unfortunate that Kareiva incorrectly characterizes the biodiversity hotspots strategy as one of “accumulation of long lists of species within the smallest possible area”. In fact, biodiversity hotspots are identified on the basis of high endemism – they are highly irreplaceable regions with large numbers of species found nowhere else. Within these global priority regions, conservation will always require “maintenance of critical ecological processes”.

More perceptively, Kareiva correctly notes the enormous similarities between marine and terrestrial conservation, and identifies the opportunity for marine conservationists to learn from the past successes and failures of their terrestrial colleagues. As a global terrestrial gap analysis showed last year, despite many years of effort and some remarkable achievements, the current protected area system still falls significantly short of representing all species. As on land, biodiversity conservation goals can be best reached in the marine realm by prioritizing conservation of areas of high irreplaceability and threat, and ensuring – within these – action at a scale significant enough to capture ecological processes.

Lastly, we applaud Kareiva’s point on the need to avoid simply following the path of least political resistance when siting MPAs. Facing up to the challenges of conservation in regions of high conflict is critical when these areas also hold irreplaceable biodiversity. While most conservation will always be local, globally flexible biodiversity conservation resources must move away from “snow and rock”, and their marine equivalents, and prioritize regions where we will soon lose species that we can never bring back.

John Pilgrim1, Roger McManus2, and Jamie Bechtel2
1Center for Applied Biodiversity Sciences and 2Marine Programs Division, Conservation International, 1919 M Street NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036, USA. E-mail: