Humans and nature are intrinsically linked. Humans depend on nature for food, shelter, energy, cultural values and other services.
Likewise, for its preservation, nature depends on people, their behaviours, rules and regulations, procedures, and policy instruments.
Thus to be effective, conservation decisions must be aware of the social and institutional context in which actions are to be implemented.
Factors such as competing social values and objectives, political agendas, social norms, organisational and governance processes and technological and financial constraints can all facilitate (or inhibit) the implementation of conservation programs but are not commonly considered in conservation plans.
But to date little attention has been given to using social data to inform the implementation of conservation strategies.
Angela Guerrero and Kerrie Wilson, two CEED researchers from the University of Queensland show how a well-known framework developed by Nobel prize winner Elinor Ostrom and colleagues can be used to guide the integration of social and ecological data to be included in conservation planning studies.
The Social-ecological Systems Framework (SES) permits understanding of the complex relationships between humans and nature. Angela and Kerrie explain how the framework can help organize the conservation planning task by directing attention to the variables affecting the relevant social-ecological interactions.
These interactions are those that influence the effectiveness of conservation and management activities, and thus outcomes, in the social-ecological system of interest.
They illustrate the approach utilising data from a large-scale conservation initiative in the south west of Australia.
They identified areas that could benefit from different implementation strategies, from those suitable for immediate engagement to areas requiring implementation over the longer term in order to increase on-the-ground capacity and identify mechanisms to incentivize implementation.
Guerrero and Wilson say that the application of a social-ecological system framework can help conservation planners and practitioners facilitate the integration of ecological and social data to inform the translation of priorities for action into implementation strategies that account for the complexities of conservation problems in a focused way”.