Marramarra National Park, NSW. Credit: Emma McIntosh

Planning for implementation


Vanessa Adams and colleagues have published a fantastic guide to designing implementation strategies alongside conservation plans.

It is full of gems, insights and further leads, so here are a few which I found particularly valuable.

Implementation is hard, and learning from examples is key

 “…it seems likely that the transition between regional-scale plans and local-scale actions (Pressey et al. 2013) (i.e. successful bridging of the assessment-implementation gap) has been navigated by a relatively small number of conservation scientists and practitioners (e.g. Fernandes et al. 2009; Henson et al. 2009; Pressey and Bottrill 2009; Knight et al. 2011; Fisher and Dills 2012; Mills et al. 2015; Sinclair et al. 2018).”

Planners unite!

The authors also draw from related land-use planning and environmental planning disciplines, to recognise differences between conformance based evaluation (where plans were intended to be prescriptive) and performance based evaluation (where plans were intended as guides). Figure 2 on the socio-ecological system surrounding conservation planning is also spot on.

Case studies are gold dust

I was really pleased to see the addition of case studies, bolstering a growing body of literature on illuminating real world examples of systematic conservation planning in action. Five case studies are discussed, drawing out the importance of context when designing implementation strategies (and the importance of planning for implementation at the outset!)

Two of these case studies (the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park rezoning and forestry agreements in New South Wales) also feature in my own research (in prep.) and act as important examples of consultative versus collaborative stakeholder engagement.

Implementation must be at the core of planning

“To embed implementation into the planning process from the outset, continuity between the assessment and implementation teams is critical and non-trivial… Yet, conservation planning is often conducted by scientists and practitioners who are not located in the planning region and not necessarily well connected to the team tasked with implementation (Wilson et al. 2016; Álvarez-Romero et al. 2018).”

Guidelines can help

To conclude, the authors suggest some much needed areas of guidelines and support to help ensure greater focus and realisation on successful implementation of conservation planning.

“Just as transferable tools and approaches have been developed to support the planning process (e.g. CMP 2013), parallel approaches to support development of implementation strategies are needed.”

Prevention is better than cure, and planning is better than trying to limit environmental damage after it’s already happened. This work is a result of a symposium and workshop held in association with the International Congress for Conservation Biology 2013 and all I can say is the world needs more of these kinds of collaborations!

Find out more

The Conservation Planning Group have also written a great blog about this work and you can read the full paper to find more gems:

Adams, V. M., Mills, M., Weeks, R., Segan, D. B., Pressey, R. L., Gurney, G. G., Groves, C., Davis, F. W., Álvarez-Romero, J. G., 2018. Implementation strategies for systematic conservation planning. Ambio: in press.


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