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Title: An evidence-based evaluation of systematic conservation planning
Author: McIntosh, Emma
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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Systematic conservation planning is a discipline focused on applying spatial ecological data to help advise those faced with value-laden conservation decision-making. It holds the potential to ensure the most important areas of land and sea are retained for biodiversity and ecosystem services, whilst simultaneously helping to avoid conflict with human uses. In this thesis my aim was to outline the factors which influence the effectiveness of systematic conservation planning in terms of achieving biodiversity conservation outcomes alongside broader social and financial objectives. I began by developing a conceptual framing of impact and evaluation methods in relation to systematic conservation planning. Following this I catalogued the literature on systematic conservation planning from across 29 academic and non-academic sources, using a gold standard evidence synthesis method, systematic mapping. This involved screening over 10,000 articles, from which three constituted high-quality impact evaluations, and a further 43 discussed the outcomes of plans but lacked appropriate study designs. To improve the efficiency of conducting large evidence syntheses like this, I reviewed 22 specialist software packages used across multiple disciplines. Finally, I chose a case study approach to understand barriers to evaluation and perspectives of effectiveness amongst a range of elite interviewees responsible for systematic conservation planning exercises in Australia in the 1990s and 2000s. This thesis highlights a shortfall in efforts to monitor and report on the outcomes of systematic conservation planning interventions. One reason is the inherent challenge of interpreting impact when counterfactual analyses are difficult to conduct, but my results also suggest insufficient academic focus on implementation and evaluation in this discipline. The three high-quality impact evaluations and Australian case studies provide valuable examples of how to overcome barriers to evaluation and point to the range of factors which influence interpretations of effectiveness. Conservation academics are ideally positioned to assist in the design and conduct of rigorous evaluations and evidence synthesis activities going forwards.
Supervisor: Grenyer, Richard Sponsor: Vice-Chancellor's Fund Award ; General Sir John Monash Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: natural resource management ; conservation biology ; impact evaluation ; environmental policy ; environmental science