Designing Protected Areas Networks in the North: Identifying Representative Area and the Use of Focal Species in a Yukon Case Study


  • Yolanda Wiersma Memorial University of Newfoundland


The science of conservation biology has made many contributions to improving biodiversity conservation within protected areas around the globe. Northern ecosystems are unique, and principles for protected areas design developed for temperate and tropical ecoregions may not readily be extrapolated to northern regions. Recent increases in ecological threats to the Canadian North have spurred interest in improving conservation and representation of northern ecosystems. Here, I present an overview of issues relevant to protected areas planning in the Canadian North, with a focus on the Yukon. I highlight recent Northern Research Institute-supported research on protected areas design in the Yukon, with a particular focus on the issue of representation and an examination of the potential utility of so-called "focal" species in identifying the location of representative protected areas. I show how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) may be applied to test questions of how many protected areas may be required to adequately represent mammal diversity in the ecoregions of the Yukon. I also use two different approaches to identify focal species for the Yukon to show that there is a great deal of ambiguity involved in how these species are identified.

Author Biography

Yolanda Wiersma, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Yolanda Wiersma is assistant professor of landscape ecology and conservation biology at Memorial University of Newfoundland.






Northern Scholarship