Systematic conservation planning in marine environments: sensitivities of the planning framework to aspects of scale

Cheok, Jessica (2018) Systematic conservation planning in marine environments: sensitivities of the planning framework to aspects of scale. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Problems of scale abound in the science, governance, and conservation planning of complex social-ecological systems. In systematic conservation planning processes, which aim to effectively and efficiently allocate conservation interventions in space and time, nearly half of the stages in the planning framework involve decisions directly related to scale. The implications of scale-related problems are still poorly understood by conservation planners and researchers, as well as approaches to deal with these problems and integrate explicit multiscale thinking into the planning process. Thus, the overall goal of this thesis is to improve understanding of the different influences of scale on conservation planning outcomes, with the ultimate goal of making specific recommendations to improve the conservation planning framework to deal with scale more explicitly. As such, the structure of this thesis mirrors the relevant stages in the planning framework that involve scale-explicit decisions, organized by the two groups of scale considerations: technical versus practical.

The first research objective of my thesis seeks to understand the extent to which technical aspects of setting spatial priorities for marine conservation ('spatial prioritisations') influence where priorities are determined, and how this relates to conservation strategies that rely on broad, coarse-resolution prioritisations to guide the locations of finer-resolution priorities are actions. I address this objective in Chapter 2 by quantifying the individual and interacting effects of three prioritisation factors on spatial priorities for marine conservation: (1) planning-unit size, (2) thematic resolution of coral reef classes, and (3) spatial variability of socioeconomic costs. I used Fiji and Micronesia as case studies and found that all three factors influenced spatial priorities to different extents, with the spatial variability of socioeconomic costs having the largest influence, followed by planning-unit size and thematic resolution of reef classes. Furthermore, I identified an interaction effect between the thematic resolution of reef classes and the socioeconomic cost data used. These findings have important implications for the strategy of relying on coarse-resolution prioritisations to guide finer-resolution assessments and invalidate a number of implicit assumptions that are made when adopting such strategy.

Progressing to practical considerations of scale, my second research objective seeks to investigate the implications of another strategy commonly assumed or proposed to overcome scale mismatches between regional and local perspectives: dynamically iterating between regionalextent planning and locally applied actions ('iterative planning'), as conservation plans are incrementally implemented across a region. To address this objective in Chapter 3, I specifically explore how frequently regional priorities should be updated as local actions are gradually implemented. Using Fiji as a case study region, I found that changes in the frequency of updating regional priorities did not influence the total time taken to achieve conservation objectives, or the total extent of final reserve systems. However, I did identify two potential benefits to updating priorities more frequently: faster achievement of objectives for high-priority features, and greater potential to capitalise on areas that have previously had conservation efforts applied. This work provides insights into trade-offs to consider regarding the frequency of updating regional conservation assessments, which vary depending on specific planning contexts.

My third research objective seeks to determine if there is an optimal scale at which to conduct conservation planning, as a precursor to understanding how best to integrate planning across multiple scales ('multiscale conservation planning'). I address this in Chapter 4 by elucidating the respective strengths and weaknesses of conservation plans developed at different jurisdictional levels in the Coral Triangle region (e.g., local, national) to adequately consider multiple social and ecological scales. I found that no plans I assessed were able to adequately address all social and ecological scales, and that plans generally best addressed social and ecological components representative of the same level at which the plan was developed. This research adds nuanced appreciation of the limitations of lower- versus higher-level conservation planning. While these respective limitations are understood as the general inability to consider components at other scales, I demonstrate that these limitations can be attributed to differences in technical versus conceptual abilities. My findings demonstrate the necessity for vertical integration between planning levels as a means to overcome their respective limitations.

The fourth and final research objective of my thesis seeks to investigate the concept of multiscale conservation planning. It is overwhelmingly evident that the consideration and understanding of any social and ecological system must consider multiple scales explicitly. Thus, my thesis culminates in Chapter 5 with a theoretical and empirical examination of what it might mean to conduct multiscale conservation planning, a critical frontier in this field. Using Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands as case studies, I provide empirical evidence that refutes the conventional notion that conservation planning across multiple scales occurs unidirectionally ('scaling up' versus 'scaling down') and present a novel archetype that more realistically reflects multiscale planning in practice: 'multidirectional scaling'. I also evaluate factors that impeded or facilitated successful outcomes across multiple scales and reveal six scale-explicit characteristics for effective multiscale planning, the first two of which are novel concepts to the literature: (1) multiscale understanding, (2) scale jumping, (3) leadership characteristics, (4) stakeholder engagement, (5) policy frameworks, and (6) institutional settings. I propose these six characteristics constitute a new form of conservation capital, 'scalar capital', as a necessary resource or investment for successful outcomes across multiple scales.

My thesis contributes nuanced understanding of the sensitivities of the conservation planning framework to aspects of scale, in both theory and practice. I offer specific recommendations for each of the relevant stages in the conservation planning framework that involve scale-explicit concerns and illuminate some implications of existing problems and influences of scale. Essentially, it is the aim of my thesis to conduct research that can enable conservation practitioners to consider aspects of scale more explicitly and improve the efficacy of conservation planning outcomes. Conservation planning in practice must progress to view any system to manage and govern as inherently complex and multiscale; similarly, planning processes across multiple scales should adopt a 'planning system identity' (such as in complex systems) to correspond in design with the systems that they seek to manage.

Item ID: 56050
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: scale, marine conservation, conservation planning, multiscale, regional priorities
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Copyright Information: Copyright © 2018 Jessica Cheok
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Chapter 2: Cheok, Jessica, Pressey, Robert L., Weeks, Rebecca, Andréfouët, Serge, and Moloney, James (2016) Sympathy for the devil: detailing the effects of planning-unit size, thematic resolution of reef classes, and socioeconomic costs on spatial priorities for marine conservation. PLoS One, 11 (11). pp. 1-25.

Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2018 23:53
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 34%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 33%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 33%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9607 Environmental Policy, Legislation and Standards > 960701 Coastal and Marine Management Policy @ 34%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9613 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas > 961303 Protected Conservation Areas in Marine Environments @ 33%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences @ 33%
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