Ecological representation refers to the concept that the full variety of biodiversity of different biological realms (freshwater, marine and terrestrial) and biological scales (ecosystems, species and within-species variation) should be represented in the system of protected and conserved areas (PCAs). Ecological representation is a crucial concept in the planning and management of protected area networks, especially for the conservation of biodiversity and ecological processes. This requires a systematic approach to identify, assess and measure biodiversity. Because our knowledge is incomplete, the use of coarse-filter biodiversity surrogates helps in this identification process. Once the ecological assessment is complete, conservation strategies are developed to create and manage protected areas that represent the identified diversity effectively. This might involve establishing new protected areas, expanding existing ones, or linking protected areas through corridors to facilitate the movement of species. The aim is to design a network of protected areas that collectively safeguard the ecological richness of the region and enable species to adapt to changing environmental conditions. Ecological representation enhances the chances of long-term biodiversity conservation and contributes to the overall health and resilience of ecosystems within the protected area network.
Representation approaches need to be adjusted periodically in response to new data, tools and information about their effectiveness.