Dynamic reserve design with the union-find algorithm

Paul Harrison, Daniel A. Spring, Michael Mackenzie, Ralph MAC NALLY

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


When reserve networks are established over time, there is a risk that sites will be developed in areas planned for future reservation, reducing the effectiveness of reserves. We developed a dynamic reserve design model that maximizes the expected number of species conserved, taking account of the risk of future habitat loss and fragmentation. The model makes use of the union-find algorithm, which is an efficient method for maintaining a list of connected regions in a graph as nodes and edges are inserted. A simple extension of the algorithm allows us to efficiently determine, for each species, when a sequence of site selections results in a reserve in which the species can persist. The extension also allows us to determine when a sequence of deforestation events results in the species becoming non-viable. The dynamic reserve design model is much more effective than commonly used heuristics, particularly when multiple connected sites are required for species persistence. The model also is able to solve much larger problems with greater effectiveness than the only previous dynamic reserve design model that considered site connectivity relationships. The union-find algorithm has much scope for addressing ecological management problems in which dynamic connectivity needs to be considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-376
Number of pages8
JournalEcological Modelling
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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