|A synthesis of marine conservation planning approaches|In: Conservation Biology. Wiley: Cambridge. ISSN 0888-8892, more
In the last decade, there has been increasing interest-particularly among international non-governmental and multilateral development organizations-in evaluating the effectiveness of conservation and development projects. To evaluate success, we need more comprehensive and case-specific information on how conservation decisions are made. I report on a database that synthesizes information on 27 marine conservation planning cases from around the world. I collected data on each case's geographic scale, primary planning objective and outcome, legal and institutional context, degree of stakeholder involvement, and the ecological criteria and tools used to facilitate conservation decisions. The majority of cases were located in North and Central America, were regional in nature, and had biodiversity conservation as the primary planning objectives. Outcomes included priority-setting plans and implementation of marine reserves and other types of marine protected areas. Governments and local nongovernmental organizations led more participatory processes than national and international nongovernmental organizations. Eleven cases considered ecological criteria first, whereas 16 relied on integrated criteria (ecological plus socioeconomic data and other pragmatic considerations) to select priority areas for conservation and management action. Key tools for data integration and synthesis were expert workshops, maps, and reserve-selection algorithms (i.e., computer-based tools for priority setting and reserve design). To facilitate evaluation of success, future documentation of marine conservation planning cases should include a standard set of ecological, social, economic, and institutional elements. To develop standards for effective marine conservation, a more diverse set of documented cases is needed; for example, those that failed were located outside North and Central America, focused on the local geographic scale, or were motivated by objectives other than biodiversity conservation.