42 J. Morrison et al conservation and social goals simultaneously maximises the chances that the activities will be sustainable and that they will have local support. An example of this integration is provided by the activities in the Upper Paraná Atlantic Forest. Within this ecoregion forest patch connectivity is being improved through the incorporation of native plants that can also be sustainably used by local people (see case study “Finding Economically Sustainable Means of Preserving and Restoring the Atlantic Forestin Argentina”). What are the primary conservation goals that we should be trying to achieve? 1.1. The Four Goals of Biodiversity Conservation and Ecoregion Conservation 65 The goals of biodiversity conservation and ecoregion conservation are as follows: 1. Representation of all distinct natural communities within conservation landscapes and protected areas’ networks 2. Maintenance of ecological and evolutionary processes that create and sustain biodiversity 3. Maintenance of viable populations of species 4. Conservation of blocks of natural habitat large enough to be resilient to large-scale disturbances and long-term changes Because these conservation goals often operate over large spatial and temporal scales, the design of conservation programmes “requires a perspective that spans nations and centuries.” 66 Large-scale conservation initiatives have become standard in a number of conservation organisations over the last decade. This evolution is seen as a reaction to the often disjointed, isolated, and nonstrategic activities that once characterised site-level conservation. While site-level conservation will always be an important and, many would argue, the most important scale of conservation intervention, site-level activities can be planned in the 65 Noss, 1992. 66 Scott et al, 1999. context of larger scale (landscape and ecoregion) visions. The thinking behind using large biogeographic units as the framework in which to achieve conservation goals is that natural communities, species, and even human threats to biodiversity move and operate at large scales, often irrespective of political boundaries. Actions conceived at the same scale as the ecological entities and processes that the actions are trying to protect should be more robust and efficient than uncoordinated efforts at a site scale. At WWF, the global conservation organisation, this evolution has taken the form of Ecoregional Conservation (ERC). Ecoregion conservation is really a philosophy that espouses using large, biogeographically defined units as an arena within which to achieve the four goals of conservation outlined above. The actual process of ecoregion conservation planning has followed a number of paths, generally relying on experts, computer algorithms, or even a mixture of the two to identify conservation priorities. A range of spatial scales has been addressed to date, under the heading of “ecoregion conservation.” A system of ecoregional boundaries of the world has been stitched together by WWF. 67 This system is also used by the Nature Conservancy. Conservation effort is not applied equally across this system. WWF has defined 825 terrestrial ecoregions (Fig. 6.1), of which a large proportion is forest ecoregions of various subtypes (tropical dry, tropical moist, temperate moist, etc.). A further analysis by WWF identified 237 groupings of these terrestrial ecoregions as being of particular importance to conservation and named these the Global 200 Ecoregions—it is usually these Global 200 ecoregions that are the focus of WWF Ecoregion Action Programmes. 68 In the process of analysing ecoregions, “priority areas” or “priority landscapes” are often identified that become the subject of further conservation planning and initiatives. Thus the general hierarchical spatial scale, from largest to smallest, is Global 200 ecoregion, terrestrial ecoregion, and priority landscape—but this is not a steadfast rule, 67 Olson et al, 2001. 68 Olson and Dinerstein, 1998.
6. Restoration as a Strategy to Contribute to Ecoregion Visions 43 Figure 6.1. Terrestrial ecoregions of the world. (Source: WWF.)