Fundamentals for using geographic information science to measure the effectiveness of land conservation projects

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Book Chapter


This chapter describes a general approach to use Geographic Information Science to assess the effectiveness of conservation projects that are designed to prevent anthropogenic land development from threatening ecosystem services. We illustrate the approach with an application to measure the effect of land protection on the preservation of biodiversity in part of the Indo-Malayan realm. The approach requires maps that show: initial land cover, independent variables associated with the drivers of anthropogenic land cover change, protected areas, and suitability for conservation. The land change model Geomod produces a map of suitability for development, which is then used to produce maps of extrapolated land development under three scenarios: Baseline, Prevention, and Leakage. Maps of these three scenarios are combined with the map of suitability for conservation to measure effectiveness of protection. The approach examines the consequence of leakage, in which conservation at protected locations has the effect of shifting anthropogenic land development from protected locations to unprotected locations. If the shift is from places of higher suitability for conservation to places of lower suitability for conservation, then the protection has an overall positive net effect at preserving ecosystem services relative to the baseline. However, the results for this chapter's application indicate that the effect of the protected areas is to shift development from places of lower biodiversity to places of higher biodiversity, because there are high biodiversity locations that have high suitability for development and are not protected. These results illustrate a situation where a conservation strategy can backfire when it aims to protect only the locations that are under threat and not the locations that maintain the most important ecosystem services. The methodology has been designed for use in a variety of contexts, specifically for policy applications that award credits for offset projects, for example carbon offset projects as called for by the Bali Roadmap for climate change. © 2009 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Geoinformatics for Natural Resource Management

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conservation, GIS, land change, modeling, protected area