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Measuring conservation success beyond the traditional biological criteria: The case of conservation projects in Costa Rica, Mekong Valley, and Cameroon.

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Traditionally, the criteria used to measure conservation success or failure are based on biological factors. Biological factors include changes in the amount of targeted conserved species, biodiversity, and total area conserved. However, conservation efforts are not simply a matter of biological concern; environmental, political, social, and conflict pressures on different scales (ranging from local to global) also have strong influences on the outcome of conservation. These other factors can either pose threats to or enhance conservation, but are not addressed by current criteria. Using a proposed holistic rubric that includes interdisciplinary fields, this paper examines a set of conservation factors on different scales – ranging from local to global – to determine their importance in conservation. The paper analyses positive factor influences with more successful conservation and negative factor influences with less successful, or failed, conservation attempts. Neutral and non-applicable factor influences are also identified, defined, and ranked as a standardization mechanism. The determination of success changed when the holistic rubric was applied to conservation projects in Costa Rica, Mekong Valley, and Cameroon. In the Costa Rica case study, conservation success for Guanacaste and Talamanca national parks is rated ‘moderately low’. In the case of Mekong Valley, conservation success is rated ‘low’ for Lower Mekong, ‘moderately low’ for Greater Annamites, and ‘low’ for Phong Nha-Ke Bang national parks. Cameroon’s Congo Basin and Sangha Tri-National conservation efforts are both rated ‘low’, while Dja Faunal is rated ‘very low’. We conclude that if conservation efforts are to attain a high level of success, the strategy for global conservation must move away from the traditional biological approach, which focuses mainly on biological concerns, and embrace a holistic approach, which in addition to biological concerns, addresses environmental, political, social, and conflict pressures, which have strong influences on the outcomes of conservation.


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Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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