The process of conserving biodiversity: From planning to evaluating conservation actions on private land in the Cape Lowlands, South Africa

 

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dc.contributor.advisor Rouault, Mathieu en_ZA
dc.contributor.author von Hase, Amrei en_ZA
dc.date.accessioned 2014-08-13T14:09:50Z
dc.date.available 2014-08-13T14:09:50Z
dc.date.issued 2009 en_ZA
dc.identifier.citation von Hase, A. 2009. The process of conserving biodiversity: From planning to evaluating conservation actions on private land in the Cape Lowlands, South Africa. University of Cape Town. en_ZA
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/11427/6181
dc.description.abstract Conservation can be conceptualised as a process of linked phases that contribute to bringing about effective biodiversity protection: (i) a conservation assessment that identifies spatially explicit conservation priorities to provide strategic guidance on where best to invest conservation resources; (ii) a planning phase that takes the spatial priorities forward into implementation processes by setting out a strategy and schedule for undertaking conservation action; (iii) an implementation phase during which conservation interventions are executed; and (iv) an evaluation phase to investigate whether conservation has been successful. In practice, conservation is rarely conducted in this way. The interrelated phases are often undertaken separately, links are neglected, and conservation science to date has focused primarily on the conservation assessment. This has led to the development of highly sophisticated principles and techniques for locating priority conservation areas, but planning and evaluation have received limited research attention: few published studies demonstrate collaborative planning processes that assist with putting conservation assessments into practice, or show on-theground conservation success linked to effective conservation planning and implementation processes. My PhD research aimed to address these knowledge gaps by conducting a conservation assessment and collaborative planning phase that would lead to effective conservation action as determined by an evaluation. The study area was in the critically endangered Cape Lowlands, a conservation priority area in the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. The highly transformed agricultural production landscape is mostly privately owned; formal biodiversity protection is low; and remnants of natural vegetation (< 9% is left) harbour an exceptionally diverse flora. Strategic conservation interventions coordinated across the Cape Floristic Region (CFR) provided the overall implementation context in the Cape Lowlands. My research was conducted in this real-world practical situation and addresses the whole conservation process, from assessment to evaluation of conservation actions. I first developed a conservation assessment guided by three key questions: âWhat are feasible, efficient, defensible and efficacious solutions for (i) deriving a surrogate layer that represents biodiversity in a region which is characterised by exceptional plant species richness and endemism ; and (ii) considering the connectivity of natural areas in an ecosystem that is highly transformed, fragmented and largely unprotected?â; and âHow can a selection method be developed for identifying and prioritising key biodiversity areas in a landscape identified as 100% irreplaceable?â To answer these questions I identified feasible, efficient, defensible methods focusing on three key aspects: (i) producing a biodiversity surrogate map of original vegetation cover using two alternative approaches: simple expert mapping and statistical modelling integrating plant species and environmental data; (ii) designing selection units based on vegetation connectivity in a simple technique to include spatial attributes of conservation areas before identifying key biodiversity areas; (iii) developing a prioritisation method based on a simple scoring system and verifying results with MARXAN-selected priority areas. In all vi three cases I found that the simple conservation assessment methods produced suitable outputs for further integration in the assessment and in decision-making during planning. (i) The expert map was as effective as the vegetation model and required fewer resources to be produced since the model relied on resource-intensive species data collection. (ii) In comparison with commonly used cadastre-based units, connectivity-based selection units captured connected vegetation more effectively and area-efficiently in units that served as the basis for priority area selection. (iii) Scoring provided a feasible, defensible mechanism for prioritising key biodiversity areas in the Cape Lowlands where all remaining vegetation has been identified as 100% irreplaceable. The planning phase complemented the assessment. Key guiding questions here were âHow can collaborative planning be used to translate the conservation assessmentâs technical outputs into timebased conservation goals and into useful products for implementation?â and âWhat constitutes effective planning in the conservation process? Through a collaborative scheduling process, I developed timebased conservation goals for action in the Cape Lowlands. This was undertaken in two work sessions with scientists, planners and conservation practitioners from the implementing agency, CapeNature. Scheduling was guided by (i) scoring-derived biodiversity-driven spatial priorities that made intuitive sense to implementers; and (ii) conservation opportunities and constraints (including resources) identified by the practitioners. Scheduling was conducted with reference to the on-going development of a private land conservation strategy for the CFR to be piloted in the Cape Lowlands. The scheduling process was an effective platform for taking spatial priorities from the assessment towards implementation: the discourse-based collaborative planning was constructive and led to consensusbased final products, including a 20-year and 5-year conservation plan setting out spatially explicit goals for conservation interventions in the Cape Lowlands. The main limitation of the process was that resource planning was not integrated explicitly enough to identify realistic goals. This highlighted the importance of integrating detailed resource considerations in future planning. Finally, to address the question âTo what extent has the Cape Lowlands conservation plan been implemented after five years of off-reserve conservation interventions in the region?â I developed a protocol for evaluating the effectiveness of conservation action in the Cape Lowlands. I assessed (i) the extent to which the goals conservation plans produced in the planning phase had been implemented; and (ii) the achievements of incentive-based conservation stewardship interventions on private land in the Cape Lowlands and CFR. Achievements were measured as hectares of vegetation protected through voluntary and legally-binding contractual conservation agreements between landowners and conservation organisations. The evaluation revealed that (i) CapeNatureâs stewardship interventions in the Cape Lowlands focused on priority areas identified in the 5- and 20-year conservation plans, thus demonstrating effective execution of the plans; (ii) private land conservation interventions have been remarkably successful and cost-effective: 68604ha priority vegetation were protected in the CFR under conservation agreements by end 2007, rivalling private land biodiversity conservation in the U.S.A. and Latin America, and more than 8000ha in the critically endangered Cape Lowlands at a cost of R 6.8 vii Million (< 1 million US$). The evaluation identified the long-term financial sustainability of current implementation programmes as the most significant threat to future success in private land conservation interventions in the Cape Lowlands and CFR. There is significant scope to design future monitoring and evaluation systems to measure ecological gains due to specific conservation actions, not done in the Cape Lowlands study, and to tailor approaches to suit specific programme stages. This PhD provides a rare overview of an entire conservation cycle with linked phases that has led to biodiversity protection. The study highlights that an effective long-term process demands significant investment in (i) a diverse (growing) set of skills and expertise to solve complex conservation situations; (ii) time, especially for visible implementation success; and (iii) well-allocated resources (money, time, skills, research attention) across all phases in the conservation process. This is necessary as each phase is needed to achieve the ultimate conservation goal: I show in the Cape Lowlands that a simple conservation assessment with limited funds (R1.8 million over 3 years) can be highly effective in guiding action towards priority areas. Important here is to develop rapid, defensible methods for cost-effective assessments and linking these with in-depth planning processes. Planning and evaluation in the Cape Lowlands were essential connecting phases that continue to support implementation success. In the context of on-going conservation action, planning and evaluation need to become part of a cyclical conservation process geared towards improved practices. I suggest that significantly greater investment in planning and evaluation research is essential to move conservation science forward in fulfilling its fundamental goal of strategically guiding where, when and how to invest optimally in conservation interventions. This will be exceptionally beneficial for undertaking effective conservation interventions and will help to clearly demonstrate the value of the research for conservation practice. en_ZA
dc.subject.other Botany en_ZA
dc.title The process of conserving biodiversity: From planning to evaluating conservation actions on private land in the Cape Lowlands, South Africa en_ZA
dc.type Thesis / Dissertation en_ZA
uct.type.publication Research en_ZA
uct.type.resource Thesis en_ZA
dc.publisher.institution University of Cape Town
dc.publisher.faculty Faculty of Science en_ZA
dc.publisher.department Department of Biological Sciences en_ZA
dc.type.qualificationlevel Doctoral en_ZA
dc.type.qualificationname PhD en_ZA
uct.type.filetype Text
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