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Non-government organizations (NGOs), agencies and research groups around the world have developed diverse approaches to conservation planning at the scale of landscapes and seascapes. This diversity partly reflects healthy differences in objectives, backgrounds of planners, and assumptions about data and conservation priorities. Diversity also has disadvantages, including confusion among donors and prospective conservation planners about what to fund and how to plan. To help reduce this confusion, we compared approaches described in separate articles by four major conservation NGOs. We structured our comparison with an 11-stage framework for conservation planning. We found considerable agreement between approaches in their recognition and ways of addressing many planning stages. The approaches diverged most obviously in ways of collecting socio-economic and biodiversity data and identifying explicit conservation objectives. Even here, however, the approaches tend to be complementary and there is potential to combine them in many landscapes and seascapes. Our review emphasizes that systematic methods are having real benefits in guiding effective conservation investments. We finish by outlining two challenges for conservation planning generally: (1) managing the transition from planning to applying conservation actions, and (2) assessing the costs and benefits of conservation planning.
The Landscape Species Approach is a framework developed by the Wildlife Conservation Society for planning landscape-scale conservation based on a suite of focal species. The approach has so far been implemented at 12 terrestrial and two marine sites. We demonstrate the approach using two sites, the Adirondack Park, USA, and San Guillermo-Laguna Brava Landscape, Argentina. We describe the spatially explicit components, including steps to map the attainable (Biological Landscape), current, and future distribution of Landscape Species, human activities (Human Landscapes) and their impacts on Landscape Species, the possible impacts of conservation actions (Conservation Landscapes), and a procedure to set spatial conservation priorities. We discuss advantages and innovations of the approach, including how it incorporates both vulnerability of biodiversity and possible recovery. Finally, we discuss improvements that can be made to the approach, costs, and implications for conservation at the two sites.
The Nature Conservancy takes a strategic and systematic approach to conservation planning. Ecoregional assessments are used to set goals and identify geographical priorities, and Conservation Action Planning is used to develop strategic plans for conservation areas. This study demonstrates how these planning processes were applied at the seascape scale based on a case study of Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea. Conservation Action Planning was used to identify key threats and strategies, and systematic conservation planning (similar to that used for ecoregional assessments) was used to design a network of marine protected areas to be resilient to the threat of climate change. The design was based on an assessment of biodiversity and socio-economic values, and identified 14 Areas of Interest that meet specific conservation goals. A detailed community-based planning process is now underway with local communities that own and manage these areas to refine and implement the marine protected area network.
WWF's spatial landscape planning methods are diverse, reflecting WWF's global, decentralized organizational structure. Over the past decade WWF's spatial planning methods have varied from expert-only workshops to systematic conservation planning using decision support software, and combinations of both. We provide four case studies from the Asia-Pacific region to illustrate the variety of approaches that have been used, emphasizing assessment directed at implementation. The method appropriate to each situation was chosen based on data availability, timing, costs, available range of stakeholders, and the technical facility and interest of the stakeholders themselves. In all cases, methods were chosen to balance staff technical capacity, technical rigour, and political buy-in, hoping to ensure that the resulting plan would actually be implemented.
The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has developed and applied a landscape-scale conservation planning methodology in eight priority conservation landscapes in Africa, areas we call African Heartlands. The foundation of the African Heartland Program is a landscape-scale planning process that has been developed and applied as part of the overall Heartland Conservation Process. This process helps AWF and its partners develop intervention strategies that address critical threats to the ecological viability of these landscapes, and to specific biodiversity conservation targets, whilst also working to improve the livelihoods of local people. In applying this participatory planning process to eight conservation landscapes in Africa we have begun to document and learn about the benefits and limitations of planning and implementation at the landscape-scale with stakeholders. We draw out lessons on the challenges and successes from our experience. Central to this are the merits of balancing a systematic science-based and pragmatic approach to landscape-scale conservation planning while addressing the needs and aspirations of local people. This approach could be particularly useful for other large-scale conservation planning efforts in developing countries where conservation objectives and human livelihoods are inextricably linked.
The majority of the biomass and biodiversity of life on the Earth is accounted for by microbes. They play pivotal roles in biogeochemical cycles and harbour novel metabolites that have industrial uses. For these reasons the conservation of microbial ecosystems, communities and even specific taxa should be a high priority. We review the reasons for including microorganisms in conservation agenda. We discuss some of the complications in this endeavour, including the unresolved argument about whether microorganisms have intrinsic value, which influences some of the non-instrumental motivations for their conservation and, from a more pragmatic perspective, exactly what it is that we seek to conserve (microorganisms, their habitats or their gene pools). Despite complications, priorities can be defined for microbial conservation and we provide practical examples of such priorities.
Infectious disease is an important driver in biological systems but its importance in conservation has historically been underestimated. Recently, however, researchers have increasingly recognized the impact of diseases on wildlife populations and have grappled with disease-related conservation challenges. For example, the phenomenon of worldwide amphibian declines caused by the fungal disease chytridiomycosis has contributed to the creation of a global Amphibian Conservation Action Plan. The sense of urgency in the protection of amphibians and mitigation of the effects of chytridiomycosis is well-warranted but determining the best way to respond to chytridiomycosis is challenging. Current conservation strategies focus on the preservation of the amphibian hosts, their habitats and their genetic materials. However, we suggest that to confront disease threats fully, particularly in the case of amphibian declines, insight into host–pathogen coevolution may be critical and we must therefore also preserve the pathogen for basic disease research. Here we outline priority targets for virulence research and urge researchers and managers to isolate and archive the pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis to ensure viable long-term amphibian conservation.
The idea of direct payments for biodiversity conservation in developing countries has generated much debate. Despite substantial experience with related economic instruments in high-income countries such approaches are rare in tropical developing countries, where conservation action is most urgently needed. We explore current experience with the application of direct payments in developing countries through an extensive review and subsequent analysis of the efforts of Conservation International. Our review identifies a broad spectrum of possible direct payment contracts. However, we focus on those involving international conservation interests. Firstly, we develop a framework for the design of direct payment applications, addressing four major aspects: contractual arrangements, definition of conservation services, performance payments, and monitoring and enforcement systems. Secondly, we discuss implementation issues, highlighting the need to consider social factors such as participatory processes, property rights, local institutions and contract legitimacy. Finally, we discuss important considerations for future payment schemes. These include the need for social responsibility, as well as rigorous assessments of effectiveness. We conclude that direct payments show potential as an innovative tool for engaging local communities or resource users in conservation and as a mechanism for channelling global investments in biodiversity conservation services to site-based initiatives.
The majority of Galliformes are ground dwelling, many live in forests, and c. 25% are on the IUCN Red List. The Djibouti francolin Francolinus ochropectus is a Critically Endangered galliform endemic to only two areas of relict Juniperus procera forest in Djibouti. This study assessed population status and habitat condition in the species' stronghold in the Forêt du Day during the post-breeding season. Line transect distance sampling was used to survey the francolin, recording visual encounters and calls. Canopy and understorey vegetation were sampled across the study area at 150-m intervals using 400-m2 quadrats. Interviews were conducted in all adjacent villages to obtain information about francolin sightings, forest use and capacity for community-based conservation. Distance was used to generate francolin population density estimates. A geographical information system and generalized linear modelling were used to determine predictors of francolin presence and juniper condition. The Distance model estimated francolin density to be 38–94 km-2. Within the Forêt du Day this is equivalent to a population of 285–705 individuals. The presence of juveniles in the samples suggests that the effective population size may be lower and therefore, although this is the first estimate of Djibouti francolin density using standard survey methodology, it should be interpreted cautiously. Juniper condition in the Forêt du Day is poor. The healthiest forest is 50% dead. Francolins are more abundant where tree cover is high. This cover now mostly consists of Buxus hildebrandtii, which appears to have mostly replaced the original juniper. In areas of high tree cover, grazing intensity is significantly negatively correlated with francolin presence. Anthropogenic influences on juniper health and francolin decline are mediated through the large number of cows grazing in the forest. We recommend an ecosystem approach to conservation of the forest, with additional species-specific protection measures for the francolin and juniper.
The Vulnerable beira antelope Dorcatragus megalotis is endemic to the Horn of Africa and believed to occur in low numbers in Djibouti, in the southern mountain range of Aser-Jog. In the absence, however, of detailed information on the species, we censused the population and estimated its density, and collected data on the occurrence of potential competitors and predators. A total of 99 different individuals were sighted, with an estimated average density of 0.69 km-2 (range 0–1.25 km-2) over the 13 massifs comprising the mountain range. We did not locate the species in massifs located near villages, suggesting it is affected by human activities. One of the main threats to the beira may be competition for grazing with domestic goats. The creation of a wildlife refuge in Aser-Jog would increase the attractiveness of the area to tourists and encourage international organizations to support a conservation programme for the beira.
Six marine turtle species are reported from the coastal waters of the Republic of the Congo. Among them, nesting by the Critically Endangered leatherback Dermochelys coriacea and Endangered olive ridley Lepidochelys olivacea marine turtles occurs annually from September to April on Congolese beaches. We developed a methodology to model the nesting season of marine turtles and apply it to the time series of nest counts for six nesting beaches monitored over 2–4 years. There is a peak of nesting activity in early January for leatherback turtles and early December for olive ridley turtles. We show a decline of olive ridley nests during this period whereas leatherback nesting increased, and propose that differential threats for these two species explain such a contrasted pattern.
Waterholes are a limited resource vital to the conservation of biodiversity in arid ecosystems. Given the rarity of natural waterholes in deserts and their presumed importance to Vulnerable Nubian ibex Capra nubiana, we examined the influence of landscape characteristics and anthropogenic factors on ibex presence at waterholes. Our results suggest that anthropogenic factors play a larger role in waterhole use than landscape characteristics. Ibex used waterholes regardless of maximum waterhole diameter, maximum water depth or width of the valley in which the waterhole was located. However, ibex were significantly more likely to use waterholes that were far from human dwellings and that had not been visited recently by feral donkeys. Waterhole and ibex conservation will require working with local communities to protect, and ensure sustainable use of, this vital resource.
The elephant Loxodonta africana population of Mozambique has declined rapidly over the last 4 decades. Historical census data are incomplete but suggest that the impact of human activity on the elephant population increased after the onset of the colonial era. Demand for ivory explains the population decline from 1700 to 1940, and the killing of elephants as part of settlement policies and tsetse fly control programmes further reduced the populations between 1940 and 1960. Land transformation from 1900 onwards may also have contributed to the historical decline in elephant numbers. Our assessment suggests that landscape approaches should be explored in seeking to conserve elephants in modern Mozambique.
The Near Threatened white rhinoceros Ceratotherium simum went extinct in Botswana during the 20th century because of poaching. Several attempts have been made to reintroduce the species. From 2001 to 2003 four batches (a total of 32 individuals) of white rhinos were released in the Moremi Game Reserve. All were fitted with transmitters, ear notched and monitored on a regular basis. Rhinos released in the last batch moved significantly further from the release site compared to early batches. Six female rhinos from the last batch dispersed out of the Reserve. Activity area (95% minimum convex polygon; MCP) sizes decreased with years after release and increasing density of rhinos but only density had an effect on the core area (50% MCP) sizes. We conclude that the number of rhinos present in the area of release should be carefully considered before further individuals are released. When released in an area with rhinos that have established territories, the newly reintroduced individuals may be forced to disperse. If other areas of suitable habitat are available elsewhere in the same protected area, animals should be released at different sites to avoid unwanted long-term dispersal and to use the inverse density-dependent activity area sizes to maximize the rhino population in an area.
We investigated the effects of human disturbance and attitudes on the density of the tree agama Acanthocercus atricollis atricollis in a densely populated rural settlement in South Africa. In this environment agamas live on trees that are harvested for firewood or maintained for fruit production. We conducted visual encounter surveys of A. a. atricollis and interviewed local households to establish whether human attitudes and actions could affect tree agama populations. Although local residents viewed tree agamas negatively (50% of interviewees claimed to have killed an agama) and acted to exclude them from their environment, tree agama density in villages was higher than that of adjacent communal rangelands and than a previously reported density estimate in a nearby protected area. We suggest three major factors that could explain why tree agamas are favoured in this peri-urban landscape in the face of human persecution: firstly, predators such as snakes and raptors are likely to occur at a much lower density in peri-urban areas; secondly, their primary prey (insects) may be more abundant or accessible in this landscape; thirdly, they may experience less competition for resources.
Identifying individuals through time can provide information on population size, composition, survival and growth rates. Identification using photographs of distinctive physical characteristics has been used in many species to replace conventional marker tagging. We evaluated photographic records over 7 years of Vulnerable whale sharks Rhincodon typus, at an aggregation in the Seychelles, for estimation of population size and structure. We collected 11,681 photographs of which only 1,149 were suitable for comparison using semi-automated matching software (I3S) of individual spot patterns behind the gills. Photo-identification showed that there was considerable loss of marker tags and enabled an estimation of the rate of tag loss. The combination of photo-identification with marker tagging identified a total of 512 individual sharks over 2001–2007. Of these, there were 115 resightings in subsequent years with two sharks identified in 2001 resighted 5 years later in 2006 and another shark sighted in 2001 resighted in 2007. Estimates of abundance using conventional open mark–recapture models for 2004–2007 were 348–488 sharks (95% confidence interval), with a high level of entry into the population by itinerants. Annual apparent survival probability was 0.343–0.781 over 2004–2007, with an average annual recapture probability of 0.201. These results are the first to suggest a highly transient population of whale sharks around the Seychelles, indicating that international or at least regional-scale conservation approaches are required.
Biological invasions by non-indigenous species are widely recognized as an important threat to biodiversity. However, the dimension, magnitude and mechanism of the impacts of invasive species remains poorly understood. We assessed the role of invasive plants by comparing vegetation changes that occurred between 1939 and 1999, a snapshot period that coincides with the onset of invasion, in Macabé Reserve in Mauritius. This Reserve was described as biotically homogeneous in 1939. In both surveys all native trees (> 10 cm DBH) were recorded from 10 1,000 m2 random plots. In 1999 the mean richness of plant species in plots was significantly lower: 15 species compared to 28 in 1939. The density and basal area of native species were both 70% lower in 1999. Plots with north and north-west aspects had significantly lower species richness and density than other aspects. We suggest that invasive plants have been the main trigger for the rapid and severe decline of native flora but we also observed that the decline of native species has been more spatially variable in the Reserve than the homogeneous distribution of invasive plants. This indicates that there are other feedback mechanisms driving biodiversity loss.