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Designing Conservation Corridors in Production Landscapes: Assessment Methods, Implementation Issues, and Lessons Learned

Amanda T Lombard, Botany Department, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University; Sustainability Research Unit, George Campus, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Richard M Cowling, Botany Department, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University; Sustainability Research Unit, George Campus, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Jan H.J. Vlok, Sustainability Research Unit, George Campus, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Christo Fabricius, Sustainability Research Unit, George Campus, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

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Abstract

Designing broad-scale conservation corridors has become increasingly common as a way of conducting an assessment for achieving targets for the representation and persistence of nature. However, since many of these corridors must traverse agricultural and other production landscapes, planning and implementation are not trivial tasks. Most approaches to conservation assessments in the dynamic world of production landscapes are data-intensive and analytically complex. However, in the real world, donor and other external requirements impose time and budget constraints, and dictate strong stakeholder involvement in the entire planning process. In order to accommodate this, assessments must be rapid, cheap, and the approach and products must be comprehensible and acceptable to stakeholders. Here we describe such an assessment aimed at identifying and implementing a network of conservation corridors in the Gouritz Initiative project domain of South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region hotspot. We used empirical data and expert knowledge to identify a corridor network hypothesized to sustain key ecological and evolutionary processes. We also consulted experts to provide a spatially explicit assessment of the opportunity costs of conservation associated with agriculture, the predominant land use in the region. We used these products to identify categories of land requiring different actions and instruments to achieve conservation goals, thereby moving from the “where” to the “how” of conservation. This information was then fed into the collaborative strategy development process for the Gouritz Initiative. Our discussion emphasizes the lessons that we learnt from undertaking this assessment, particularly lessons regarding the implementation of the planning products. We conclude that at the outset of any planning project, a consensus on the vision must be achieved, a detailed social assessment of appropriate institutions must be undertaken, and a learning organization that practices adaptive comanagement should be established. These institutional and governance requirements are fundamental to successful implementation of conservation-planning products.

Key words

biodiversity processes; conservation corridors; conservation planning; expert knowledge; Gouritz Initiative; implementation; production landscapes
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087