In Australia and globally, nature and society face a historically unprecedented wave of extinction and ecological degradation (Wilson 2002). Although large ecological reserves are an essential core component of any biodiversity conservation program, protected areas comprise only about 6–12% of the land globally (IUCN 2003) and nationally (Mackey et al. 2006) and are typically widely dispersed and isolated. This percentage of strictly protected land is too small – by a factor of five or ten, even if the reserves were optimally distributed (Soulé and Sanjayan 1998).
In response, critics of conventional conservation (e.g., Soulé and Terborgh 1999) often suggest that long-term prospects for biodiversity will be enhanced the more the entire landscape, irrespective of tenure, is managed as a conservation (rather than a production) matrix. Such a transformation, however, will demand a bolder and more systematic approach to nature protection. This will require increases in the area protected, enhanced biotic and abiotic connections between core protected habitat areas, and reconsideration of the economic and recreational activities on lands where native ecosystems still dominate.
In North America and elsewhere, it has been recognized that existing conservation initiatives fail to provide sufficient area and ecological connectivity to accommodate the key, large-scale, long-term ecological processes necessary to sustain natural systems (Soulé and Terborgh 1999; this volume). Neither do they allow for evolutionary adaptation to environmental change. The current situation for biodiversity in Australia is similar (Australian Government 2001).