New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2012) 36(2): 243- 251

A unified approach to conservation prioritisation, reporting and information gathering in New Zealand

Forum Article
Susan Walker 1*
R. T. Theo Stephens 1
Jacob McC. Overton 2
  1. Landcare Research, Private Bag 1930, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
  2. Landcare Research, Private Bag 3127, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

The biodiversity conservation task in New Zealand is considerable and complex, and effective prioritisation of conservation work, informative reporting, and efficient, well-targeted data gathering are essential. We propose an approach to biodiversity assessment for organisations implementing biodiversity conservation work in New Zealand that unifies (1) biodiversity conservation work prioritisation, (2) reporting on trend and difference made to biodiversity, and (3) gathering relevant biodiversity data for both. We argue that prioritisation and reporting are reciprocal assessment activities that share information needs and are best served by a common framework that links the current state of biodiversity and expectations of future persistence with pressures (e.g. habitat clearance, weeds and pests) and human conservation activities (‘biodiversity conservation work’, e.g. legal protection, pest control, restoration). We describe ideas that might underpin the approach, including diminishing returns, irreplaceability, and vulnerability. We distinguish reporting of net achievement (biodiversity change or trend) from reporting of difference made to biodiversity by conservation work, and argue that the latter is a basis for both prioritisation and reporting in operational conservation organisations. A unified approach to prioritisation and reporting would help clarify management organisations’ total requirements for biodiversity inventory, monitoring and research; different organisations could develop and apply the approach in a variety of ways, but a shared approach to gathering the essential information would benefit all stakeholders.