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Conservation Planning

Conservation Planning

The protection of Earth’s natural resources to last our generation and future generations is considered conservation. There are many types of conservation, some broader and some more specific.

Examples include conservation of the environment, animals, plants and humans.

What is the definition of conservation planning?

The conservation of resources and living organisms needs to be carefully planned. Conservation planning is a process of

locating, configuring, implementing and maintaining areas that are managed to promote the persistence of biodiversity and other natural values.1

Conservation planning can involve different parts, such as site conservation planning (assessing information about a site).

Systematic conservation planning (SCP) is a type of disciplinary planning. It aims to provide support for making decisions on alternate conservation actions. SCP takes into account both biodiversity and society costs. It aims to optimise both.

Steps to planning conservation

Let’s summarise the main planning steps to conservation planning set up by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

You can access the entire document at the IUCN document2.

  1. Preparation - Species or a group of species is identified to need conservation.

For example, species numbers indicate a decline in numbers or a vulnerability to decline in the future.

  1. Reviewing status and collecting information - Vulnerable species or groups of identified species will have all the information collected about them. The report includes its biology and ecology, conservation status, potential threats, and pressures acting on it.

  1. Build goals and a vision - Goals on how the species will be conserved and a vision on how the species distribution and well-being will look in the future.

  1. Threat analysis, objective set up and performance indicators:

  • Analysis of threats, the addition of more and modification of existing ones.

  • Identification of potential threat drivers.

  • Identification of limitations.

  • Bringing limitations, threats and drivers together and analysing them to be addressed in the conservation strategy.

  1. Planning actions - Planning actions that will be taken to address threats, drivers and limitations.

  1. Implementation and monitoring of actions planned.

  1. Evaluation and adaptation - Assessment of action will be made to improve the conservation plan further.

For example, if measures are being implemented, if they have the desired effect and possible alternatives.

  1. Learning and communication.

  1. Revisiting the plan.

Conservation planning is a continuous and dynamic process. With our changing climate and other conditions, it will often be revised. This is summarised below.

Conservation Planning conservation planning nine steps StudySmarterFigure 1. Conservation planning steps diagram

The conservation area planning policy

In the UK, the general act for the environment is the Environment Act 2021. It covers improving the natural environment, waste and resource efficiency, air quality, water, nature and biodiversity and other topics.

Other policies, frameworks and legislations in the UK are more specific or cover slightly different topics, for example, the Scottish Planning Policy (PPL). The Scottish Planning Policy is a government statement that gives guidelines on addressing land planning. The policy aims for a low carbon, natural, resilient, and connected place.

Policies, frameworks and legislations also protect vulnerable areas and species.

For example, if an organisation wants to build a building / another type of infrastructure that falls in the conservation area, it will need planning permission.

An example of a conservation plan

Let's cover a hypothetical example using the previous nine conservation planning steps.

A red squirrel has been identified as vulnerable in Brownsea Island (England) due to an invasion by the grey squirrels.

Conservation Planning the red squirrel StudySmarter

Figure 2. The red squirrel, pixabay.com.

The example we are using is entirely made up. However, red squirrels do have a status of near threatened in most of the UK - England, Wales and Northern Ireland (except they are common in Scotland). In England, red squirrels only survive in the Isle of Wight, Brownsea Island and pine forests - where there are no grey squirrels.

Red squirrels are a native species, and the grey squirrels we usually observe in our gardens and parks are invasive species. They were introduced in the 1900s from North America. Over the last 100 years, there has been an extreme decline from before abundant red squirrels to now near threatened, especially in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

So how did the grey squirrels take over? According to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), when a grey squirrel population arrives in an area occupied by the reds, the reds will disappear in about 15 years. The grey squirrels can out-compete reds for food and space and carry a virus called squirrel pox.

The grey squirrel is immune to the virus, but they can pass it on to the reds.

Okay, let's get back to our example. The information will be identified, including red squirrels' biology and ecology, conservation status and potential threats, and pressures acting on them.

For example, features of this species that can be identified:

  • Size: Around 20 cm.

  • Distribution: The UK, scarce in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • Survival rate: Low if the grey squirrel is present.

  • Age structure: Red squirrel life expectancy in the wild is only about 3 to 4 years. The presence of juveniles and adults will be assessed.

  • Pressures acting on it: The grey squirrel - out-competition for food and squirrel pox virus.

Goals are set, and a vision is built to conserve the red squirrel population on Brownsea Island. Then, threats, limitations and potential threat drivers are analysed. The actions are then planned. In this case, let's say that the action taken will be:

  • Culling (selective slaughter) of the grey squirrel because red and grey squirrels cannot live together.

  • Vaccination against the grey squirrels pox is introduced.

There is no vaccination against squirrel pox yet. However, it is currently in development. It could be many years until it can actually be used.

  • Introduction of pine martens.

The Irish pine martens were seen to lower the populations of grey squirrels. At high pine marten densities, the population of grey squirrels was found to collapse, and in turn, the red squirrel population recovered.

After some time, the action plan will be assessed again, and evaluations made on the effects. Let's say that the grey squirrel population has declined to almost nothing, and the red squirrel population has recovered. Although the outlook is positive, the red squirrel population will still be closely monitored, and the plan will periodically be revisited.

The successful strategy of this conservation plan can be implemented in other areas needing recovery.

A list of habitat conservation plans in the UK

Protected areas exist to preserve our environment's environmental, cultural and historical values. Let's cover some of the protected areas.

Biodiversity conservation plan areas

  • Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) / Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI): Includes Ramsar sites (Wetlands), Special protection areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC). Sites that are of biological or geological interest.

  • Marine protected area (MPA): parts of the ocean with restricted human activity.

  • SAC: Habitats directive to protect habitats and species.

  • SPA: Protection of wild birds.

SPA and SAC are set by the European Union (EU). Some policies still apply to the UK unless the Withdrawal Agreement (after Brexit).

Areas to protect the scenic value

  • National parks: areas with a landscape with little or no human development.

  • Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) (in most of the UK, except Scotland): Areas conserved due to their natural beauty.

  • National Scenic Area (Scotland): Similar to AONB, protection of landscapes of natural beauty and protection from human development.

Areas to protect the geodiversity value

  • SSSIs

  • Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGS): Set up for the importance of Earth Science or preserving heritage.

Conservation Planning - Key takeaways

  • Conservation of the protection of natural resources to last our and future generations. Conservation undergoes extensive planning before implementation.

  • Conservation planning is a process of locating, implementing and maintaining areas that are managed to promote the persistence of biodiversity and other natural values.

  • The IUCN sets up nine main steps for conservation planning:
    1. Preparation

    2. Reviewing the status

    3. Building vision

    4. Threat analysis

    5. Planning actions

    6. Implementation and monitoring

    7. Evaluation and adaptation

    8. Learning and communication

    9. Revisiting the original plan

  • There are several protected areas to conserve habitats and species in the UK. These include SSSIs, AONBs, MPAs and others.


References

  1. Pressey, R. L., Cabeza, M., Watts, M. E., Cowling, R. M., Wilson, K. A. (2007). Conservation planning in a changing world. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 22(11), 583 - 592.
  2. The IUCN (2017). Guidelines for species conservation planning. Available at: https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/2017-065.pdf [accessed: 19/02/2022].

Frequently Asked Questions about Conservation Planning

Conservation planning is a process of locating, configuring, implementing and maintaining areas that are managed to promote the persistence of biodiversity and other natural values.

A type of disciplinary planning. It aims to provide support for making decisions on alternate conservation actions.

To protect natural resources and living organisms on our planet.

  • By following the guidelines. Planning process set up by the IUCN involves nine steps which are: 

  1. Preparation

  2. Reviewing status 

  3. Building vision

  4. Threat analysis

  5. Planning actions

  6. Implementation and monitoring

  7. Evaluation and adaptation

  8. Learning and communication

  9. Revisiting the original plan

Assessing the information about a specific site.

Final Conservation Planning Quiz

Question

Define conservation.

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Answer

The protection of Earth’s natural resources to last our and future generations.

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Question

Give two examples of conservation.

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Answer

Animal conservation

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Question

What does SCP stand for (relating to conservation policy)?

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Answer

Systematic conservation planning.

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Question

What is site conservation planning?

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Answer

Assessing information about a site.

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Question

Why would you need to analyse the threats in conservation planning?

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Answer

To understand what is affecting a species or a group of species.

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Question

Give four features that a species population can be assessed on.

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Answer

Size, distribution, survival rate and age structure.

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Question

Which policy concerns both protection of biodiversity and geodiversity values?

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Answer

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

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Question

SPAs protect habitats and species. True or False?

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Answer

False. SPAs concern the protection of wild birds.

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Question

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland AONBs exist to conserve the natural beauty of extraordinary landscapes. What is a similar alternative acting in Scotland?

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Answer

Nation Scenic Areas.

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Question

What could be one solution in controlling an invasive species population?

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Answer

Culling.

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Question

What is considered a non-native species?

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Answer

A species that has been introduced by humans and often causes harm to the environment and native species.

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Question

What is meant by the age structure of a population?

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Answer

The amount of juveniles, adults and older generations present.

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Question

Amazon forests face deforestation on a massive scale. What two example consequences can this have on the environment?

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Answer

 Loss of habitat and pollution.

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Question

What is the main general environment protection act in the UK?

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Answer

Environment Act 2021.

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Question

Name four broad examples of conservation.

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Answer

conservation of the environment, animals, plants and humans.

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