The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has a vested interest in helping countries develop science-based Protected area networks and has pledged support through the development of country-driven National Implementation Support Programs (NISPs).
One way to help overcome the technical challenges of the daunting process of evaluating and filling protected area gaps is the development and use of GIS-based user-friendly tools that support the protected area gap process. The development of a Protected Area Gap Decision Support System (DSS) was conceived as part of an ongoing process to help fill the technical void that exists in many countries. Version 1.0 of these tools was completed in September 2006 and works in ArcGIS 9.1. The new version 2.0 was completed in January 2008, renamed to the Protected Area Tools (PAT) and is now compatible with ArcGIS 10. This version includes many new features requested from our users.
It is hoped that PAT will continue to evolve and provide utility for evaluating land purchase/acquisition for achieving maximum return on investment in terms of overall contribution to a country's conservation goals. In addition to questions that may be asked about the best remaining core habitat or covering a comprehensive representation of biodiversity, the ultimate question conservation planners want answered is "Where do I get the best ecological return for my conservation dollar?" This question has driven the design of a systematic, logical, and repeatable toolkit that helps planners evaluate activities or events that may be threatening habitat health, identify a comprehensive representation of biodiversity for protection, and configure an optimal portfolio solution for meeting habitat conservation goals. PAT consists of three conservation modules which operate within Environmental Systems Research Institute's (ESRI) ArcGIS Geographic Information System (GIS) software:
- Environmental Risk Surface (ERS) McPherson et. al. (Journal of Conservation Planning)
- Relative Biodiversity Index (RBI)
- Marxan Tools