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Assessing shortfalls and complementary conservation areas for national plant biodiversity in South Korea


Protected areas (PAs) are often considered the most important biodiversity conservation areas in national plans, but PAs often do not represent national-scale biodiversity. We evaluate the current conservation status of plant biodiversity within current existing PAs, and identify potential additional PAs for South Korea. We modeled species ranges for 2,297 plant species using Multivariate Adaptive Regression Splines and compared the level of mean range representation in South Korea's existing PAs, which comprise 5.7% of the country's mainland area, with an equal-area alternative PA strategy selected with the reserve algorithm Marxan. We also used Marxan to model two additional conservation scenarios that add lands to approach the Aichi Biodiversity Target objectives (17% of the country). Existing PAs in South Korea contain an average of 6.3% of each plant species' range, compared to 5.9% in the modeled equal-area alternative. However, existing PAs primarily represent a high percentage of the ranges for high-elevation and small range size species. The additional PAs scenario that adds lands to the existing PAs covers 14,587.55 km2, and would improve overall plant range representation to a mean of 16.8% of every species' range. The other additional PAs scenario, which selects new PAs from all lands and covers 13,197.35 km2, would improve overall plant range representation to a mean of 13.5%. Even though the additional PAs that includes existing PAs represents higher percentages of species' ranges, it is missing many biodiversity hotspots in non-mountainous areas and the additional PAs without locking in the existing PAs represent almost all species' ranges evenly, including low-elevation ones with larger ranges. Some priority conservation areas we identified are expansions of, or near, existing PAs, especially in northeastern and southern South Korea. However, lowland coastal areas and areas surrounding the capital city, Seoul, are also critical for biodiversity conservation in South Korea.

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