Tropical forests are globally important for both biodiversity conservation and the production of economically valuable wood products. To deliver both simultaneously, two contrasting approaches have been suggested: one partitions forests (sparing); the other integrates both objectives in the same location (sharing). To date, the ‘sparing or sharing’ debate has focused on agricultural landscapes, with scant attention paid to forest management. We explore the delivery of biodiversity and wood products in a continuum of sparing-to-sharing scenarios, using spatial optimization with set economic returns in East Kalimantan, Indonesia—a biodiversity hotspot. We found that neither sparing nor sharing extremes are optimal, although the greatest conservation value was attained towards the sparing end of the continuum. Critically, improved management strategies, such as reduced-impact logging, provided larger conservation gains than altering the balance between sparing and sharing, particularly for endangered species. Ultimately, debating sparing versus sharing has limited value while larger gains remain from improving forest management.

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We formulated the integer linear programming problem using the R programming language63 and solved it using the software Gurobi64. The R code is available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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The data sets analysed in this paper are available via https://doi.org/10.5063/F1GX48S7.

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This research was supported by Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant no. DP160101397. Support was also provided by funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP), a partnership of The Nature Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara (https://snappartnership.net). F.A.A.K was supported by a Niche Research Grant Scheme, grant no. NRGS/1087/2–13(01). We would like to thank A. Klassen, C. Romero, N. Wolff and all members of the SNAPP Forest Sparing or Sharing team for useful discussions.

Author information


  1. School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

    • Rebecca K. Runting
    • , Jessie A. Wells
    •  & James E. M. Watson
  2. The Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

    • Rebecca K. Runting
    •  & Hugh P. Possingham
  3. The Nature Conservancy Indonesia Program, Kebayoran Baru, Jakarta, Indonesia

    • Ruslandi
    •  & Musnanda Satar
  4. The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA, USA

    • Bronson W. Griscom
    • , Jessie A. Wells
    • , Peter Ellis
    •  & Sara M. Leavitt
  5. Department of Biology, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA, USA

    • Bronson W. Griscom
  6. Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK

    • Matthew J. Struebig
    •  & Nicolas J. Deere
  7. ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

    • Erik Meijaard
    •  & Hugh P. Possingham
  8. Borneo Futures Project, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

    • Erik Meijaard
    •  & Marc Ancrenaz
  9. Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA

    • Zuzana Burivalova
  10. Borneo Nature Foundation, Palangka Raya, Indonesia

    • Susan M. Cheyne
  11. Department of Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK

    • Susan M. Cheyne
  12. The Nature Conservancy, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

    • Edward T. Game
    •  & Hugh P. Possingham
  13. School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

    • Edward T. Game
  14. Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA

    • F. E. Putz
  15. Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany

    • Andreas Wilting
  16. HUTAN–Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

    • Marc Ancrenaz
  17. Faculty of Resource Science and Technology, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Kota Samarahan, Malaysia

    • Faisal A. A. Khan
  18. Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

    • Andrew J. Marshall
  19. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

    • Andrew J. Marshall
  20. Program in the Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

    • Andrew J. Marshall
  21. School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

    • Andrew J. Marshall
  22. Wildlife Conservation Society, Global Conservation Program, New York, NY, USA

    • James E. M. Watson
  23. Natural Resource and Environmental Studies Institute, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, British Columbia, Canada

    • Oscar Venter


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B.G., O.V., R.K.R., E.T.G., Z.B., F.E.P., R., J.A.W., P.E., S.M.L. and M.S. conceptualized the manuscript. R.K.R., R., M.J.S., M.S. and J.A.W. developed the spatial data inputs. R.K.R. led the expert elicitation with input from E.M., M.J.S., O.V., N.J.D., A.W., E.T.G., S.M.C., M.S., A.J.M., B.G., F.A.A.K., M.A. and Z.B.. R.K.R. conducted the analyses. All authors interpreted the results and contributed to writing the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rebecca K. Runting.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Tables 1–9, Supplementary Figs. 1–5, Supplementary Results, Supplementary References 1–33

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