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Assessing the Synergies and Tradeoffs of Conservation Strategies


Deforestation for fuel by Hutu refugees

Conservation has been called a ‘‘crisis discipline.” Indeed, there are several conservation crises – loss and degradation of ecosystems, climate change, to name a few – that impact biodiversity and people’s well-being.

For conservation strategies to be implemented effectively, it requires acknowledging that conservation does not take place in a sociopolitical vacuum. A key challenge of modern conservation planning is to anticipate future trends and threats, and develop conservation plans that are as efficient as possible so that they can win the support of stakeholders and provide enough flexibility to adapt to ever- changing conditions.


Why It Matters

  • Instead of society responding haphazardly to one conservation crisis or threat after another, WWF is focusing on developing a roadmap that considers not only a single present concern or threat, such as species loss or deforestation, but to also explicitly consider the larger system dynamics of implementing conservation policy, including the potential synergies and tradeoffs amongst both conservation and development goals. Improving our understanding of meaningful ways to embed this approach into larger policy decisions is paramount to conservation success.

  • What is attractive about this approach in terms of planning decisions is that it does not require agreement on (1) the motivations underlying the tradeoffs that individual people or entities are willing to make (i.e., the reasons that people want to protect ecosystems or biodiversity) or (2) what considerations beyond an assessment of trade-offs should enter into public policy.

  • By recasting the conservation decision-making process to focus on the relevance and assessment of trade-offs, it increases the likelihood that all participants will be able to find greater common ground for collaboration, even if they hold very disparate views on other issues. In turn, this should allow greater progress toward designing and implementing policies or plans designed to protect not only the biodiversity but also the ecosystems and the services they provide.

What WWF Is Doing

WWF and our partners are broadening the information available to public and private decision makers through the development and application of a systems approach for assessing the benefits and costs of implementing conservation initiatives. Specifically we are developing novel scientific approaches for assessing the impacts of policy decisions on biodiversity and ecosystem services objectives, along with novel approaches for visualizing the resultant trade-offs between these objectives across different scenarios, to make decisions more effective, efficient, and defensible.