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  1. Joseph R. Bennett

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Category: Analysis

Description: Repository accompanying this pre-print: Abstract: The resources available for conserving biodiversity are limited, and so protected areas need to be established in places that will achieve objectives for minimal cost. Two of the main algorithms for solving systematic conservation planning problems are Simulated Annealing (SA) and exact integer linear programming (EILP) solvers. Using a case study in British Columbia, Canada, we compare the cost-effectiveness and processing times of SA used in Marxan versus EILP using both commercial and open-source algorithms. Plans for expanding protected area systems based on EILP algorithms were 12 to 30% cheaper than plans of Marxan using SA, due to EILP’s ability to find optimal solutions as opposed to approximations. The best EILP solver we examined was on average 1071 times faster than the Marxan SA algorithm tested. The performance advantages of EILP solvers were also observed when we aimed for spatially compact solutions by including a boundary penalty. One practical advantage of using EILP over SA is that the analysis does not require calibration, saving even more time. Given the performance of EILP solvers, they can be used to generate conservation plans in real-time during stakeholder meetings and can facilitate rapid sensitivity analysis, and contribute to a more transparent, inclusive, and defensible decision-making process.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International


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