Once a protected area is added into a conservation network, it is usually assumed that it will stay as a protected area in perpetuity. However, Alagador et al. make a strong argument that protected areas shouldn’t necessarily stay classified as such indefinitely, given the dual realities of shifting landscapes under climate change and limited budgets for purchasing and maintaining land. With the release of conservation areas that no longer serve long-term goals such as maintaining biodiversity or connectivity, managers can be freed from financial and time constraints to focus on new areas. This dynamic view of acquiring and releasing conservation areas as they are needed requires a clear vision of long-term goals. Ultimately, however, it results in a more successful conservation network because it isn’t hampered by ineffective links.
Alagador et al. demonstrate their ideas using ten focal species from the Iberian Peninsula. They consider how to prioritize spatial considerations in a dynamic setting, with the additional twist of accounting for the varying dispersal requirements of species. They present a detailed, flexible framework to optimize the scheduling of selection and release of conservation areas. With it they effectively argue for a new shift in thinking for the future so that the realities of limited budgets and shifting ranges can be accommodated.