Small protected areas dominate some databases and are common features of landscapes, yet their accumulated contributions to biodiversity conservation are not well known. Small areas may contribute to global biodiversity conservation through matrix habitat improvement, connectivity, and preservation of localized ecosystems, but there is relatively little literature regarding this. We review one database showing that the average size of nearly 200,000 protected areas in the United States is ~2000 ha and the median is ~20 ha, and that small areas are by far the most frequent. Overall, 95% and 49% of the records are less than the mean (1648 ha) and median (16 ha), respectively. We show that small areas are prevalent features of landscapes, and review literature suggesting how they should be studied and managed at multiple scales. Applying systematic conservation planning in a spatially hierarchical manner has been suggested by others and could help insure that small, local projects contribute to global goals. However, there are data and financial limitations. While some local groups practice ecosystem management and conservation planning, they will likely continue to protect what is “near and dear” and meet site-based goals unless there is better coordination and sharing of resources by larger organizations.
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