The Conservation Hierarchy can help to integrate conservation objectives and socio-economic objectives to aid smart development, which can achieve better outcomes for nature and people, and transcend scale from national-level targets to local-level actions, through appropriate plans, policies and guidelines.
This structure is useful for National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plans (NBSAP) and Voluntary National Commitments (VNCs), which are over and above the contents of the NBSAPs. It can also aid with mainstreaming conservation concerns with other national objectives.
This generic example demonstrates how the Mitigation & Conservation Hierarchy can transcend scale from national-level targets to local-level actions, through appropriate plans, policies and guidelines for land use.
Our case study on the State of Victoria’s native vegetation management framework provides a real-world example of where Mitigation & Conservation Hierarchy principles have been applied to land use policy to achieve net gain for native vegetation. Importantly, the Mitigation & Conservation Hierarchy provides a common framework to connect individual, projects and landscape-scale actions with global biodiversity goals.
Choosing pathways that are less damaging to nature can be costly for humans. For example, fisheries management often seeks to achieve ‘triple-bottom-line’ outcomes from marine resources, which can achieve environmental, social and economic objectives. However, establishing a marine reserve has opportunity costs for fishers. This result in trade-offs between economic returns, social welfare and biodiversity conservation.
On the other hand, some financially wealthy countries may have limited opportunities to prevent degradation and protect biodiversity on their own land, but may have resources to commit to ambitious net gain targets, which are invested in renewal and restoration elsewhere.
This generic example demonstrates how countries can set different national targets, to suit their national contexts and development pathways, which sum to achieve an overarching global target for net gain in biodiversity.
By thinking in net terms the conservation hierarchy can allow for tailored approaches to actions at each step based on constraints, such as what is biophysically possible – according to available natural assets or technology and what is societally acceptable – based human values and socio-economic context. As such, nations with higher levels of resources, capacity and impacts can set more ambitious targets, and support less-regulated lower-capacity nations to achieve more feasible targets. This can allow for simultaneous achievement of biodiversity objectives under the CBD and human sustainable development goals.
Specific examples of how this might work in practice can be found in our case studies on applying Conservation Hierarchy principles to turtle conservation and shark conservation.