Steps 8-10

Step 8: Employ the concepts of irreplaceability, complementarity, vulnerability (threat), and persistence (retention of features) at all stages of the planning and implementation process

The following concepts are fundamental to biodiversity conservation planning but can also carry over to planning for open space and other values. To summarize, planners should carefully consider:

  • Irreplaceability. How important is a particular site in fulfilling the goals of a plan? Conversely, how much will a plan be compromised if the site is not protected?
  • Complementarity. Does the site contain features poorly represented in sites that are already protected in the surrounding land conservation network? As noted above, complementarity must be balanced with redundancy so that, to the extent possible, multiple examples of each feature are protected.
  • Vulnerability. How likely is the degradation or loss of the site’s important values if it is not protected or properly managed? Some vulnerability is intrinsic, i.e., inherent to species or ecosystems. For example, some natural communities are more prone to invasion by non-native plants than other communities, and some species are more sensitive than others to habitat fragmentation. To this inherent vulnerability, there is always some degree of external vulnerability, based for example on proposed development or climate change.
  • Persistence. Are species and other features of interest likely to persist on the site or across the network over a long period of time? Persistence is probabilistic and difficult to forecast with accuracy. Generally, however, persistence increases with site size, redundancy (multiplicity of areas),  connectivity, and the resilience of the ecosystem, which generally increases with the diversity of native species.

Step 9: Weigh the costs and benefits of alternative conservation actions

Benefit-cost analysis for conservation is difficult because currencies differ among different types of values, be they economic, utilitarian, recreational, aesthetic, spiritual, or intrinsic. The difficulty in establishing comparisons increases the need for planners to state their priorities and decisions explicitly – what you value will determine what features you select and the goals you set (see Goals and Steps 2 and 3, above).

These disparities make it no less important to quantify costs and benefits to the extent possible. One must weigh the costs of conservation (e.g., acquisition costs or opportunity costs such as foregone timber revenue) vs. benefits of conservation. Planners should also quantify the costs of obtaining more information on conservation values of sites, thereby reducing uncertainty about site values. If costs are more variable than conservation value among sites, costs should drive the selection process. On the other hand, if conservation value is more variable than cost, conservation value should drive the process.

Step 10: Update and revise the plan and accompanying priorities on a regular basis

Priorities should never be static, such as a one-time plan or a map on the wall. Prioritization must be dynamic, adaptive, and iterative. No plan is ever “finished” – if nothing else, management practices and priorities for protected sites will need to be reconsidered on the basis of monitoring data or experience. Priorities must also reflect the evolution of organizational goals and the changes brought on by the protection – or loss -- of land parcels, the availability of new lands for protection, budget adjustments and reallocations, and the emergence or reduction of threats old and new. Climate change and its associated uncertainties heighten the need for flexible and adaptive prioritization and planning.

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