Let’s get started: Landscape Conservation
“To achieve the objectives of conservation, governments need to dispel any notion that conservation is a limited, independent sector largely concerned with wildlife or with soil; and that ecological factors are impediments to development which in some cases may safely be overlooked, and in others, may be considered simply on a project by project basis, not as a matter of policy.”
━ World Conservation Strategy (1980)
Despite the global community’s commitment to landscape conservation more than 25 years ago, its future as an effective, national adaptation strategy in the U.S. remains unclear.
E. O. Wilson━renowned naturalist, Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, and co-author of The Theory of Island Biogeography (1967)━published a book entitled Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life (2016). Simply put, Wilson argues for the protection of half of the Earth from human activity to preserve biodiversity. The strategy could also address challenges we face with climate change and land degradation.
Despite global agreements to move towards sustainability through implementation of a set of goals (CBD et al., 2013) and targets (CBD, 2013) designed to protect biodiversity and promote human well-being, there is increasing recognition that the home planet has transitioned to a new epoch━the Anthropocene. The need for “planetary stewardship” (Steffen et al., 2011) is urgent if humanity, and the natural capital we depend upon, is to survive.
The global community’s response to the challenge has been, in part, to establish a network of protected areas (Woodley et al., 2012). Although 200,000 of them now cover +/-15% of the world’s landmass (Jones et al., 2018), less than half of the globe’s terrestrial ecoregions have a fifth of their area represented in protected status (Venter et al., 2017) and less than 20% of identified Key Biodiversity Areas have been protected (UNEP-WCMC & IUCN, 2016). If the answer to the question of representativeness is not alarming enough, Jones et al., (2018) note that benefits obtained by protected areas are reduced by intense human pressure occurring inside many of them.
It is easy to understand why Half-Earth, and the idea of separating humans from protected areas, is gaining support. We can and must do better; and that is where landscape conservation design can help.
The good news is that the global community is on a trajectory of changing its conservation strategy. Transformational approaches, such as those expressed in the World Conservation Strategy (IUCN, 1980), ecosystem management (Lackey, 1998), adaptive co-management (Armitage et al., 2010), and more recently, landscape conservation (also referred to as “large landscape conservation” (Curtin & Tabor, 2013) and “landscape approaches” [Sayer et al., 2013; DOI, 2017]) are clear indications that the conservation community’s evolution is underway.
So, what is landscape conservation?
In 1992, the IVth World Congress on National Parks and Protected Areas━Parks for Life━emphasized the relationship between people and protected areas and the need for a regional (i.e., landscape) approach to conservation (IUCN, 1993). Two years later, the IUCN revised its protected areas categories to include “Category V: Protected Landscapes/Seascapes” which is currently defined as:
“An area of land, with coast and sea as appropriate, where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant aesthetic, ecological, and/or cultural value, and often with high biological diversity” (Dudley, 2008).
The goal of Category V is to provide a buffer around one or more core conservation areas and to function as linking habitat between them (Dudley, 2008). That sounds like an appropriate goal for landscape conservation, but it does not provide any insight on the process we need to take to achieve the goal.
In 2000, the European Landscape Convention━the first international agreement to focus exclusively on landscapes━defined landscape as:
“An area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors” (Council of Europe, 2000).
In short, people define the landscape. Where it is true landscapes contain the biogeophysical structures and processes that support ecosystem services and coupled biodiversity which is essential for human well-being and a sustainable society (Leitao et al., 2012), they also are of local/regional/national economic importance, and contain diverse stakeholders with varying perspectives on the value of the ecological goods and services found within.
Any decisions made about the protection, conservation, and use of social and natural capitals are driven by human interests which are informed by an understanding of current and plausible future conditions (Nassauer, 2012). Landscapes are an effective boundary object for adaptation and sustainability decision-making (McKinney et al., 2010; Nassauer, 2012) but if the goal of conservation is to protect landscapes, stakeholders within those landscapes need to be engaged in the development and implementation of conservation approaches. McKinney et al., (2010) note:
“The common currency in large landscape conservation is regional collaboration━the ability to work across boundaries with people and organizations that have diverse interests yet share a common place and purpose.”
Some of the most successful landscape conservation efforts in the U.S. exist at regional levels with non-profit organizations and state agencies typically providing coordination of multi-stakeholder efforts (Groves et al., 2002; Meretsky et al., 2012). Two U.S.-based non-profits━the Network for Landscape Conservation and the Center for Large Landscape Conservation━define landscape conservation as:
“An approach that brings people together across geographies, sectors, and cultures to collaborate on conserving important landscapes and the myriad of ecological, cultural, and economic benefits they provide” (Network for Landscape Conservation).
“It connects wildlands, working lands, and urban areas into whole, healthy landscapes; and it enhances the conservation value of all lands through the development of strategies that promote adaptation and resilience” (Center for Large Landscape Conservation).
Stakeholder-driven landscape approaches to conservation require skilled coordinators and facilitators. The Department of the Interior (DOI) established the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCC) in 2009: a national network of 22 regional partnerships consisting of federal, state, and local agencies, tribal governments, non-profit organizations, private stakeholders, and academic institutions (Jacobson & Haubold, 2014). The LCCs━in collaboration with DOI’s Climate Science Centers━provide forums for diverse stakeholders to build regional capacity, conduct science, and work towards their vision of “landscapes capable of sustaining natural and cultural resources for current and future generations” (LCC Network, 2014; NASEM, 2015).
Unfortunately, due to reductions in the 2018 federal budget, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stopped funding the coordination/facilitation role it provided to many LCCs. As a result, the resilience and longevity of those partnerships and “The Future of Landscape Conservation” is in question (Baldwin et al., 2018).
Earlier this year, a multi-jurisdiction working group convened by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies developed a white paper summarizing its review of regional landscape conservation partnerships (AFWA, 2018). The paper identifies various multi-stakeholder governance approaches in the U.S. and what can be learned from those experiences. It can be used to inform the development of a nation-wide, multi-stakeholder approach to landscape conservation…IF in the event the LCC partnerships dissolve due to a lack of coordination/facilitation. We surely hope not. The future of landscape conservation…and humanity itself…rests firmly on our collective shoulders.
AFWA [Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies]. (2018). Landscape conservation collaboration: A white paper. Washington, DC: AFWA Wildlife Resources Policy Committee. 22 pages.
Armitage, D., Berkes, F., & Doubleday, N. (Eds.). (2010). Adaptive Co-Management: Collaboration, learning, and multi-level governance. UBC Press. 360 pages.
Baldwin, R. F., Trombulak, S. C., Leonard, P. B., Noss, R. F., Hilty, J. A., Possingham, H. P., … & Anderson, M. G. (2018). The Future of Landscape Conservation. BioScience 68(2), 60-63. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix142
CBD [Convention on Biological Diversity]. (2013). Quick guides to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Montreal, Canada: Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. 42 pages.
CBD, FOA, World Bank, UNEP & UNDP. (2013). Biodiversity and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Technical Note. Montreal, Canada: Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. 28 pages.
Council of Europe (2000). European Landscape Convention. Retrieved June 17, 2018 from https://rm.coe.int/1680080621
Curtin, C. G., & Tabor, G. M. (2016). Large landscape conservation: Addressing the realities of scale and complexity. Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences. doi: 10.1016/B978-0- 12-409548-9.09210-1. Retrieved on June 16, 2018 from: http://largelandscapes.org/media/publications/Addressing_the_realities_of_scale_and_complexity.pdf
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Jones, K. R., Venter, O., Fuller, R. A., Allan, J. R., Maxwell, S. L., Negret, P. J., & Watson, J. E. (2018). One-third of global protected land is under intense human pressure. Science, 360(6390), 788-791. doi: 10.1126/science.aap9565
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Sayer, J., Sunderland, T., Ghazoul, J., Pfund, J. L., Sheil, D., Meijaard, E., …& van Oosten, C. (2013). Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling agriculture, conservation, and other competing land uses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(21), 8349-8356. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1210595110
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