Achieving Biodiversity Benefits with Offsets: Is Research Tackling the Right Topics?

Achieving Biodiversity Benefits with Offsets: Is Research Tackling the Right Topics?

Biodiversity offsets are becoming increasingly common across a portfolio of settings: national policy, voluntary programs, international lending, and corporate business structures. Given the diversity of ecological, political, and socio-economic systems where offsets may be applied, place-based information is likely to be most useful in designing and implementing offset programs, along with guiding principles that assure best practice. We reviewed the research on biodiversity offsets to explore gaps and needs. While the peer-reviewed literature on offsets is growing rapidly, it is heavily dominated by ecological theory, wetland ecosystems, and U.S.-based research. Given that majority of offset policies and programs are occurring in middle- and low-income countries, the research gaps we identified present a number of risks. They also present an opportunity to create regionally based learning platforms focused on pilot projects and institutional capacity building. Scientific research should diversify, both topically and geographically, in order to support the successful design, implementation, and monitoring of biodiversity offset programs.

Fishers' perceptions on rights-based approaches to marine management

Fishers' perceptions on rights-based approaches to marine management

Territorial use rights in fisheries (TURFs) are becoming a widely promoted tool to enhance the sustainability of small-scale fisheries. In 1991, Chile established a national coastal TURF policy that gave legal authority to assign exclusive access rights to artisanal fisher organizations. In 2014, there were several hundred TURFs decreed to fisher organizations in different biophysical and socioeconomic settings. To date, research assessing TURF implementation has generally been based on a few case studies and have had mixed results. Here, we present results from a survey of 535 fishers from 55 different artisanal fisher organizations. e survey consisted of three open-ended questions that explore users’ perceptions of the main problems, benefits, and improvements concerning assigned TURFs. Main key problems, as perceived by fishers, include increased costs associated with surveillance and poaching, and the variability and sometimes lack of financial returns. Despite strong price drops in exported species, TURFs have provided incentives for innovation and stewardship, and fishers are generally unwilling to relinquish them...

Improving invasive ant eradication as a conservation tool: A review

Improving invasive ant eradication as a conservation tool: A review

Ants are one of the most cosmopolitan invasive taxa: dozens of species have invaded islands and continental areas around the globe. Invasive ants continue to colonize new ecosystems having direct and indirect negative impacts on natural and managed ecosystems. Thus, in many cases, eradication is often a desirable management action. While invasive ant eradications have increased over the past 15 years, the success rate of ant eradications is low compared to other invasive species. With colleagues from CISRO Australia and University College of London, ACS reviewed ant eradications worldwide in order to assess the practice and identify knowledge gaps and challenges.

Conservation Landscape Assessment of Panama Bay, Panama

Conservation Landscape Assessment of Panama Bay, Panama

Panama Bay is one of the most important wintering and stopover areas for shorebirds in the western hemisphere. In 2015, Advanced Conservation Strategies conducted a Conservation Landscape Assessment of Panama Bay for the David & Lucile Packard Foundation. A research team, including natural scientists, social scientists, architects, and land use planners, conducted primary and secondary research, including stakeholder interviews across all sectors in Panama City. The goal was to assess the state of shorebird habitat protection in Panama Bay and how it fits into the larger landscape and dynamics surrounding the Panama City metropolitan area. Advanced Conservation Strategies also provided a series of broad, forward-looking recommendations to improve wetland and shorebird protection. 

Biodiversity Offsets and Islands

Biodiversity Offsets and Islands

Balancing development and biodiversity conservation presents significant challenges. One approach, biodiversity offsetting, represents “measurable conservation outcomes resulting from actions designed to compensate for significant residual adverse biodiversity impacts resulting from project development” and is a final step in a mitigation hierarchy following steps of avoidance, minimization, rehabilitation, and restoration. In the journal Conservation Biology, Josh Donlan and colleagues at Island Conservation recently presented an argument for the potential for biodiversity offsetting to fund invasive species eradications on islands. Islands have disproportionately higher levels of biodiversity, threatened species, and extinctions than mainlands. 

Parks and Gardens, of course we need both.

Parks and Gardens, of course we need both.

Judging by the pages of recent journals and books, one could easily believe biodiversity conservation is experiencing a crisis. New phrases and metaphors abound, making for great headlines. Protecting the Wild is one of two new volumes that are entirely motivated by this supposed fracture in conservation. From a quick look at these books, one would think that there are thousands of scientists and conservationists in the streets, calling for the end of protected areas. Of course, this is far from reality. Even the volume's archenemy, Peter Kareiva, is not explicitly opposed to parks; rather, his focus just happens to be on all the stuff outside of parks and wilderness: “Conservation will likely continue to create parks and wilderness areas, but that will be just one of the field's larger goals. The bigger questions… regard what will we do with the rest of it.” Arguments for silver bullets, however, make better copy than cost–benefit analyses do.
 

Designing Conservation Incentive Programs That Work

Designing Conservation Incentive Programs That Work

The promise of environmental conservation incentive programs that provide direct payments in exchange for conservation outcomes is that they enhance the value of engaging in stewardship behaviors. An insidious but important concern is that a narrow focus on optimizing payment levels can ultimately suppress program participation and subvert participants’ internal motivation to engage in long-term conservation behaviors. Increasing participation and engendering stewardship can be achieved by recognizing that participation is not simply a function of the payment; it is a function of the overall structure and administration of the program. Key to creating innovative and more sustainable programs is fitting them within the existing needs and values of target participants. By focusing on empathy for participants, co-designing program approaches, and learning from the rapid prototyping of program concepts, a human-centered approach to conservation incentive program design enhances the propensity for discovery of novel and innovative solutions to pressing conservation issues. 

Alternative Strategies to Marine Conservation

The continued degradation of marine ecosystems, along with the ecosystem services they provide, suggest that new, innovative approaches are needed to scale up marine biodiversity protection and promote sustainable fishery practices. We synthesize information from Chile on the key processes involved in the development of alternative strategies for scaling up marine biodiversity conservation and discuss the complementarities with marine protected areas. Defined as “ancillary” marine conservation initiatives under the Convention of Biological Diversity, we suggest that these alternative strategies have the potential to capitalize on local stakeholders’ participation and contribute to solving livelihood and governance issues while playing a significant role in scaling up marine conservation. We specifically focus on two recent ancillary initiatives being piloted in Chile. The development of business model innovations which could enable biodiversity benefits from territorial user rights fisheries policies and the creation of municipal conservation areas. We identify how these initiatives could eventually help scale up marine conservation, discuss opportunities and challenges from these pilot experiences and conclude with the need for developing policy frameworks and cross-scale governance approaches which formally acknowledge marine ancillary conservation measures as part of an integrated way to manage marine biodiversity. Exploring and supporting alternative complementary marine conservation strategies is particularly relevant in Chile and Latin America, if biodiversity conservation initiatives are to scale in coverage, contribute to livelihood improvement of local communities, replenish fisheries and play key roles in adaptation to climate change. 

The Science of Rewilding

Trophic rewilding is an ecological restoration strategy that uses species introductions to restore top-down trophic interactions and associated trophic cascades to promote self-regulating biodiverse ecosystems. Given the importance of large animals in trophic cascades and their widespread losses and resulting trophic downgrading, it often focuses on restoring functional megafaunas. Trophic rewilding is increasingly being implemented for conservation, but remains controversial. Here, we provide a synthesis of its current scientific basis, highlighting trophic cascades as the key conceptual framework, discussing the main lessons learned from ongoing rewilding projects, systematically reviewing the current literature, and highlighting unintentional rewilding and spontaneous wildlife comebacks as underused sources of information. Together, these lines of evidence show that trophic cascades may be restored via species reintroductions and ecological replacements. It is clear, however, that megafauna effects may be affected by poorly understood trophic complexity effects and interactions with landscape settings, human activities, and other factors. Unfortunately, empirical research on trophic rewilding is still rare, fragmented, and geographically biased, with the literature dominated by essays and opinion pieces. We highlight the need for applied programs to include hypothesis testing and science-based monitoring, and outline priorities for future research, notably assessing the role of trophic complexity, interplay with landscape settings, land use, and climate change, as well as developing the global scope for rewilding and tools to optimize benefits and reduce human–wildlife conflicts. Finally, we recommend developing a decision framework for species selection, building on functional and phylogenetic information and with attention to the potential contribution from synthetic biology. 

A human-centered approach to invasive species management

A human-centered approach to invasive species management

Targeting human-inhabited islands for invasive species eradication campaigns layers social complexity on top of technical complexity. Attaining widespread support and cooperation for eradications requires programs designed to meet diverse stakeholder needs. The Tierra del Fuego archipelago serves as an informative case study and model for understanding and incorporating private landowner preferences into a proposed eradication program. We employed a human-centered approach to characterize landowner perceptions, preferences, and potential support for a large-scale initiative to eradicate the invasive North American beaver (Castor canadensis) from Tierra del Fuego. We used a factorial vignette survey to understand how attributes of an eradication program are related landowners' decisions to participate. Landowners rated four programs that randomly varied by contract length, required level of landowner involvement, institutional administrator, payment, social norms, and probability of a successful eradication. Landowners in Tierra del Fuego were generally more willing to participate under three conditions: (1) increased payments, (2) increased expectations of program success, and (3) low requirements for landowner involvement. Our results suggest that incorporating feedbacks into program design can increase public support, and that landowners in Tierra del Fuego may not express the same preference for autonomy that exists in other regions of the world. Understanding and incorporating stakeholder preferences, perceptions, and beliefs into management strategies is an ongoing challenge for conservation practitioners worldwide. The vignette survey approach provides a cost-effective, rapid, and scalable tool to document and incorporate local values into conservation program design. Programs built using a human-centered approach will complement landowners’ land-use objectives, increase cooperation, and ultimately improve conservation outcomes.