book cover: esri-press-conservation-planning-shaping-the-futureThe book 'Conservation Planning - Shaping the Future' is timely, informative and contains significant impact. GeoDesign is explained within the context of conservation planning processes, and the editors pinpoint benefits and non-benefits in the plan development phases. Both terrestrial and marine environments are included and examples from around the world that include many maps are provided.

Conservation Planning:
Shaping the Future

Edited by

F. Lance Craighead and Charles L. Corvis Jr. 

Esri Press

2013, 440 Pages, ISBN  978-1-58948-263-0

Review by

Jeff Thurston



Conservation planning and land management is a fundamental need that requires information and understanding based on science. We learn about the land and water we depend upon, largely through science. The physical geography and biological systems often link together and many questions about climate change, habitats and populations also demand our understanding. The book Conservation Planning - Shaping the Future is timely.

Many of us do not understand conservation planning and false information often abounds. This book consists of fifteen different teams that have contributed individually to each chapter. "The book includes discussions on umbrella species, terrestrial and aquatic habitat suitability, conservation linkages, population viability, site selection, land-use trends, climate-change trends, and decision making for long-term conservation planning," the editors state.

It is difficult to know about land management and conservation planning today. An abundance of information is available on these topics, some scientific and other sources lacking more authoritative details. At the same time, research and investigation into these topics is constantly taking place, adding to the proliferation of valuable knowledge, but creating challenges for the average person or student to understand and appreciate the significance of them.

The book Conservation Planning - Shaping the Future is timely, and helpful, because it summarises key topics about conservation planning and land management into a comprehensive single volume.

The editors Lance Craighead and Charles L. Convis, Jr. have produced fifteen chapters, each comprising an expert team knowledgeable about the topics to write about them. The use of maps generated from geographic information systems (GIS) adds to individual chapters in a powerful way, clearly providing a quick and supportive understanding of the text and concepts as they are discussed. Since the images and maps are generated from many sources, they are slightly different throughout the book, based on where the contributors are from and the tools they had available.

This has no bearing on the content, other than slight visual differences. For the most part, readers will easily recognise the common cartographic elements. As well, the book is written largely in scientific form, with references and acknowledgements included. My observation is that anyone could read this book, the text is tailored to understanding easily and students will particularly find the text useful.

"The goal of a conservation plan is to maintain or enhance biodiversity, ecosystem function, and ecosystem structure, while accommodating human-oriented land uses that may be detrimental to that goal," the editors say. Several biological processes physical geography relationships are recognised throughout the book that is focused on natural systems. The editors aim to lead readers towards understanding the development of conservation planning, and the linkage to geographic information supports the notion of GeoDesign - design based upon geographic information systems.

Conceptual work-flows are provided that provide the means for understanding the GeoDesign process. Nine basic GeoDesign approaches are presented including: anticipatory, participatory, sequential, combinatorial, constraining, optimizing, rule-based, agent-based and mixed agent-based and sequential. Following on the earlier work of Carl Steinitz, it is suggested that these plans be developed at three different scales - 1:5,000, 1:25,000 and 1,250,000. Scale is discussed in the initial chapters.

Land cover data and integration of land use in relation to landscape change is also presented. Material also includes information about habitat assessments, species and understanding issues related to habitat quality. Marine and freshwater ecosystems are discussed and mapping of these areas is similarly outlined.

The relationship of corridors and connectivity of habitats is also presented. Concepts that include populations and models for site selection are also provided. Notable is the discussion about design as it relates to these systems and climate change is also discussed. It is also notable that mapping biological processes is presented in relation to appropriate use of modeling tools, a factor that sometimes is overlooked. The editors summarize the content and provide and overview of conservation planning at the end of the book.

The editors have also aligned the issues of benefits and and non-benefits arising through conservation planning and have also provided readers with an understanding of economic or cost factors involved in these systems. They continually draw the readers attention to how the information can be used in conservation planning and what information is most effective for generating the best practices and results. GIS methods and analytical approaches are also presented in this book. Many of these analysis include the use of ArcGIS software together with Spatial Analyst and geostatistical tools, particularly where discussing future work and potential new information.

Readers should not assume that this book is only about terrestrial environments. There is a significant amount of material related to marine and freshwater ecosystems as well. In fact, a comparison between terrestrial and marine ecosystems is described. There are also examples included from different places around the world including the United States, Africa, Canada, The Amazon and Australia among others.

In summary, there are not many books like this that present the relationships of natural systems within the context of GIS. Common terrestrial and marine terminology coupled with GIS terminology and descriptions provide great insight into how spatial analysis tools and modelling approaches can be used in terms of conservation planning processes. The many examples supplementing the written text add much clarity and impact into understanding.

This is an excellent book. In my view this book might be viewed as essential reading for undergraduate students due to the fact that it explains GeoDesign in conservation planning and land management, effectively tying GIS into science. This book contains the fundamentals for working with professionals and non-professionals involved in environmental planning. We need more books like this.