Previous | Next | How to reach the 2010-and beyond- target: research influencing policy
Topic: Systematic Conservation Planning, 1 Attachments
Conf: How to reach the 2010-and beyond- target: research influencing policy, Msg: 8217
From: Dan Faith (
Date: 26/09/2006 02:10 AM

Systematic Conservation Planning Dan Faith efn2010 Title: Research needs and challenges for the “systematic conservation planning” approach to the 2010 biodiversity target

Daniel P. Faith
Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia
Kristen J. Williams
CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystem Atherton, Australia

Among the highlighted research recommendations in the Introduction to the conference were those relating to understanding drivers of change and developing, testing and evaluating indicators. We note also that a key theme of this e-conference on the 2010 biodiversity target is “research influencing policy”. It seems particularly appropriate then to consider the research needs arising from a proposed approach for meeting the 2010 target that is explicitly based on documented policy shifts in regional land-use planning. This “systematic conservation planning” strategy addresses overall biodiversity but integrates other needs of society. We’ll argue that it raises important research issues relating to this integration.

The innovative approach, already being explored by Australian workers (Faith and Ferrier, 2005; Faith, 2005; Williams et al, 2006), proposes that take-up of “systematic conservation planning” (SCP) in a region can imply a shift to reduced rate of loss of biodiversity. It is based explicitly on the trade-offs and synergies made possible by SCP, and the expected gains from implementation of SCP relative to “business as usual”. Biodiversity losses arising from society’s pursuit of various non-conservation land-uses are reduced by SCPs trade-offs (e.g, through land-use choices among localities) and synergies (e.g., through improved uses within localities). Both aspects imply reduced conflict between biodiversity conservation and other land-use opportunities - and so also imply a reduced rate of biodiversity loss for a given rate of regional adoption of non-conservation land uses. It is noteworthy that not only clever spatial arrangement of conservation but also synergies are found through SCP – crediting, in some places, new or existing management regimes that serve both biodiversity and other uses in the same place.

Faith and Ferrier suggested that documented adoption of an SCP approach in a region could serve as a measurable indicator of the region’s success in addressing 2010 – the resulting SCP processes would mean that the ongoing loss of land to non-conservation uses would now correspond to a lower rate of loss of biodiversity. The SCP approach in a given region would integrate the full range conservation instruments (e.g. payments to private land owners) and not be restricted to formal protected areas. Naturally, the approach takes into account the biodiversity status implied by existing land uses (and threats), particularly at places not affected by changes resulting from SCP-based planning.

A first case study

The challenge in practice is to identify the factors determining past and future losses of intact land – typically equivalent to opportunity costs of conservation – and then use SCP methods to implement plans that retain regional biodiversity in a way that accommodates these pressures. The Faith-Ferrier approach now has been explored in an initial case study, in Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea, that addresses some of these practical considerations (Williams et al, 2006; Faith et al, in prep). The study documents scenarios in which take-up of systematic conservation planning would lead to a reduced rate of loss of biodiversity.

A version of the Milne Bay Province, PNG, scenarios for 2010 is shown in the figure in the attached file. The dashed line is for SCP; the solid line is for the case where SCP is not used but several important sites for conservation of individual species within the region are protected; the dotted line is where non-conservation opportunities are pursued in order of attractiveness, without regard to biodiversity conservation goals. The figure shows that, under SCP, the rate of biodiversity loss is reduced relative to the dotted line scenario. Implementation only of the set of (non-SCP) single-species important conservation areas produces only a shorter term reduction in rate of loss of biodiversity.

A strength of the Australian approach is that it addresses “overall biodiversity” through effective use of biotic (e.g. museum collections) and environmental data to form a best-possible surrogates “calculus”.

The SCP approach illustrates the e-conference theme relating to “effects of research on biodiversity policy including examples of 'best practice'”. But it also raises many research issues, and so may link to the e-conference interest in “three most important research topics for halting biodiversity decline and their justification”.

We list below some key research issues that must be addressed in order to realize the potential that exists for the SCP strategy to provide a pathway for achieving the 2010 biodiversity target:

1) Improved estimators (“surrogates”) for overall biodiversity are needed. Such approaches include making best-possible use of museum collections data and integrating such information with environmental layers. Other research includes the need to investigate whether a large-scale DNA barcoding programme would help overcome both taxonomic and geographic information barriers (see Faith (2005b).
2) Realistic estimates of opportunity costs of conservation, and their distribution, are needed, including ways to combine different costs.
3) Given that the SCP approach integrates and credits “partial protection” for biodiversity, arising from certain management regimes/ land uses, we need better estimates of those degrees of partial protection.
4) The SCP scenarios integrate information about rates of different kinds of land use change, but better models are needed for predicting such patterns of change in different places.

These research tasks, in the context of the trade-offs /synergies offered by SCP, would seem to go a long way towards the goal to “develop research practices and formulate research tasks in order to support the development and implementation of an effective and socially acceptable biodiversity policy.” Such an approach would also provide the needed enhanced collaboration between researchers and policy-makers.


Faith, DP. (2005a) Global Biodiversity Assessment: Integrating Global and Local Values and Human Dimensions. Global Environmental Change: Social and Policy Dimensions 15(1) 5-8. .

Faith, DP (2005b) Phylogenetic diversity (PD) provides biodiversity surrogates information that can enhance the contribution of DNA barcoding programs to conservation planning. In: First DIVERSITAS Open Science Conference: "Integrating biodiversity science for human well-being", 9-12 November 2005, Oaxaca, Mexico. Symposium 14 - Phylogeny and biodiversity science.

Faith, DP & Ferrier S (2005) Good news and bad news for the 2010 biodiversity target. Science Online, 6 Mar 2005.

Faith, DP., KJ. Williams, SE. Cameron, DK. Mitchell and C. Margules (in prep)
How Systematic Conservation Planning can help to achieve the 2010 Biodiversity Target: lessons from a case study integrating biodiversity and socio-economic factors in Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea. Global Environmental Change: Social and Policy Dimensions

Williams, K.J., Mitchell, D.K., James, R., Cameron, S.E., Faith, D.P., Storey, R., de Fretes, Y., Sumantri, H., Margules, C. (2006) Milne Bay Province Terrestrial Biodiversity Conservation Outcomes: A pilot for the New Guinea Wilderness. CSIRO and Conservation International – Melanesia CBC, Atherton.

D. P. Faith also provided some of the rationale for this approach in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment reports (“Biodiversity Synthesis” and “Responses: Biodiversity” sections).

Recent updates and further background can be found on the Australian 2010 working group’s website: . The World Conservation Monitoring Centre “Biodiversity Indicators Partnership” links to this working group, as a context for an emerging case study: . Discussion of the approach can be found also in the report of the recent CBD "virtual conference" on the Biodiversity 2010 target, under the heading "What should be done at national level to meet the 2010 biodiversity target?" See “systematic conservation planning” under: and . We are hoping to engage other countries/ regions in trialing the SCP approach, through communication among the country committees within DIVERSITAS.

Click to open!FaithSCPfigure.doc
(25,600 bytes)