Designing protected area configurations to maximise biodiversity is a critical conservation goal. The configuration of protected areas can significantly impact the richness and identity of the species found there; one large patch supports larger populations but can facilitate competitive exclusion. Conversely, many small habitats spreads risk but may exclude predators that typically require large home ranges. Identifying how best to design protected areas is further complicated by monitoring programs failing to detect species. Here we test the consequences of different protected area configurations using multi-trophic level experimental microcosms. We demonstrate that for a given total size, many small patches generate higher species richness, are more likely to contain predators, and have fewer extinctions compared to single large patches. However, the relationship between the size, number of patches, and species richness was greatly affected by insufficient monitoring, and could lead to incorrect conservation decisions, especially for higher trophic levels.
- Conservation of Natural Resources