The plan of the day: Managing the dynamic transition from regional conservation designs to local conservation actions
Bob, Morena, Jon and myself have been thinking for a long time about the transition from conservation planning to conservation action on the ground (or in the sea!). This paper was a long time in the making, so it’s great to finally see those thoughts printed in Biological Conservation. In the paper, we argue that regional-scale conservation designs must be seen not as end products, but as starting points for ongoing adaptation. We identify many reasons why plans might need to be changed to fit local circumstances, and explore the conceptual, operational, institutional, and policy implications of designs being dynamic. Those without journal access can e-mail Bob Pressey for a copy of the paper.
In numerous and important situations across the globe, the transition from designs to actions in conservation planning requires multiple iterations. Regional designs need to be updated progressively as some applied actions depart spatially from the areas notionally selected for conservation, or as some intended actions prove infeasible or undesirable. For researchers and organizations to fully capitalize on the enormous investment in conservation designs around the world, regional designs must be seen, not as static products, but as starting points for ongoing adaptation. We explain 18 reasons why regional designs need to be adapted, either in anticipation of actions or as actions are progressively applied. Our reasons are in four groups: early fine-tuning; mistakes and surprises; new data; and major overhaul. We show that the relative importance of these reasons varies between three planning situations: 1. rapid application, when conservation actions are applied simultaneously across all parts of regional designs; 2. protracted application, when, more typically, actions are applied incrementally over extended periods; and 3. revision of regional designs, either mandated or spontaneous. We then explore the conceptual, operational, institutional, and policy implications of designs being, or needing to be, dynamic. The weaknesses in methods for conservation planning are most starkly revealed by the need to adapt designs during protracted application of actions on private or community-managed lands and marine waters.
Recruitment hotspots boost the effectiveness of no-take marine reserves
In the same issue is a great paper led by colleague and collaborator Colin Wen, which has important implications for conservation planning on the Great Barrier Reef and elsewhere. Colin’s PhD work looked at the microhabitat preferences of coral trout and stripey snapper, and associated implications for conservation and management of these species. His current paper demonstrates that the effectiveness of coral reef marine protected areas can be increased by protecting “recruitment hotspots” for these species. Download the paper here, or ask Colin for a copy.
No-take marine reserves are widely advocated as a means to conserve biodiversity and sustain fisheries. Within adequately protected reserves, the abundance, mean size and age of targeted fish and invertebrate species are often increased. However, the magnitude and rate of recovery within reserves varies among locations and species, and increases in abundance in reserves are not universal. One potential contributing factor to variability in reserve performance is spatial variability in the supply of recruits. Many reef fish species exhibit disproportionate levels of recruitment in relatively small areas (so-called “recruitment hotspots”). Here we tested the hypothesis that the presence of recruitment hotspots enhances the effectiveness of reserves for two important fishery species, coral trout (Plectropomus maculatus) and stripey snapper (Lutjanus carponotatus), on coral reefs of the Keppel Island group, Great Barrier Reef. To do this we compared fish densities in areas that did or did not contain previously identified recruitment hotspots, both inside and outside reserves. For both species, the mean densities of adult fish above the minimum legal size were approximately three times as high in reserves with hotspots than in reserves without hotspots. Furthermore, the mean densities in reserves without hotspots were similar to those in nearby areas that were open to fishing. In contrast, the densities of sub-legal size individuals of both species were primarily explained by the presence of recruitment hotspots, irrespective of reserve protection. Our results suggest that identifying and incorporating recruitment hotspots into the selection of sites for reserves could enhance both conservation and fisheries objectives.