Exploring effective conservation networks based on multi-scale planning unit analysis: a case study of the Balsas sub-basin, Maranhão State, Brazil

L. Barreto, M.C. Ribeiro, A. Veldkamp, M. van Eupen, K. Kok, E. Pontes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Nature conservation and restoration activities require delineation of effective conservation networks. This paper presents a methodology which allows a quick evaluation of different planning options for extensive areas. We analyzed the spatial structure of remaining patches of the natural Cerrado vegetation in the Balsás sub-basin, South of Maranhão State of Brazil (about 25,590 km2) in order to understand how the remaining habitats are distributed and spatially configured. Conservation area network scenarios are based on hexagonal cells, referred to as analysis unit (AU) cells. A multi-scale analysis of 10,000 ha and 50,000 ha AU cells was set up to represent local and regional scales, respectively. For each AU at both local and regional scales we computed landscape metrics of native vegetation: NATIVE VEGETATION COVER: percentage of native vegetation cover; (NV-NP): number of patches; (NV-MSI): mean shape index. Subsequently, five different conservation and restoration strategies were defined: (a) only enforce nature conservation within legally established units; (b) target nature conservation only within the local AU landscape; (c) target regional management by combining neighboring AU; (d) management of both local landscape and region; (e) protect the legal conservation areas and promote local and regional conservation. We also generated scenarios of habitat capacity for mammals and matched these results with the different vegetation conservation scenarios. Results indicate that only 12% of the study area is well conserved and that 43% of the region is in a very critical condition. The percentage of AU cells where native vegetation conservation actions are required differ for the five conservation strategies: These results allow policy makers and other stakeholders to target the locations and extent of conservation units required. We suggest that about 45% of the sub-basin could be managed at local, regional or both scales. Regarding a mammal species diversity scenario an even higher percentage of the average habitat capacity of the selected species occurs in open cerrado and valleys areas that coincide with critical areas. The proposed multi-scale analysis unit cell approach can support the planning process of extensive areas as necessary in Brazil.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1055-1063
JournalEcological indicators
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Landscape metrics
  • Multi-scale analysis
  • Conservation network
  • Territorial planning


Dive into the research topics of 'Exploring effective conservation networks based on multi-scale planning unit analysis: a case study of the Balsas sub-basin, Maranhão State, Brazil'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this