Considerations of scale in biodiversity conservation

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Animal Conservation



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The dilemma of conservation practice lies in weighing the urgency for action against the need for sustainable long-term solutions, with urgent responses incurring the risk of failure and long-term solutions incurring the cost of time. Wisdom of hindsight reveals that sustainable solutions are not achieved when conservation action is initiated at an inappropriate scale. Here, I review recent studies that have included considerations of scale to illustrate how conservation problems and solutions might be unapparent, or even counterintuitive, to conservation practitioners responding to issues at the scales at which they were first perceived. Case studies cover the conservation of ecosystems, ecosystem services, species and populations. These studies collectively illustrate how most biodiversity conservation efforts can be improved by considering the problem at a broader spatiotemporal scale than that at which local natural resource management has traditionally operated. Globalization is increasingly challenging conservation practitioners to search for solutions across an ever-wider range of spatiotemporal scales and institutional levels. Identifying real problems and threats at relevant scales is part of conservation triage, when opportunity costs and cost efficiencies of alternative interventions are evaluated and ranked, before action is implemented through the appropriate institutional levels.