New IUCN WCPA Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines on transboundary conservation now available online. Read the news here and download the Guidelines here.
By Jamie McCallum and Michael Schoon
According to IUCN definitions, TBC initiatives are dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity. These twin goals can be achieved through improved spatial scales and connectivity and cross-border management cooperation.
1) Spatial Benefits
Connecting two or more natural areas will increase core habitat. According to reserve design emanating from the theory of island biogeography, single large reserves are generally better at preserving biodiversity than several smaller ones. An enlarged core can provide more and varied undisturbed habitat, native vegetation and therefore more niches for more species. This increased space can also provide benefits for animals with large home range, territorial or migratory requirements and those unable to move through the matrix. This may have particular significance for species driven to new territory by the effects of climate change. Allowing for wider dispersal can prevent localized overpopulation, genetic drift, human/animal conflict and species driven habitat destruction.
These changes can aid the re-connection of ecological processes across multiple trophic levels. This can enable the maintenance of key species interactions and protect ecosystem structure and feedbacks.
TBC initiatives can also reduce the ratio of marginal zones of altered edge habitat to core habitat. This should minimize edge effects such as altered animal composition or high predator and parasite abundance, although it has to be considered that additional connectivity could also lead to increased exposure to these threats.
2) Management Benefits
Bioregional management strategies, based on natural delineations rather than political ones, propose the management of ecosystems in a holistic, conservation-focused manner. Whether these are fully feasible in practice or not, resources for biodiversity conservation are limited. Joint management activity can enable the pooling of those limited resources to minimize replication and maximise productivity. These resources might include numbers of personnel, local knowledge, field techniques, funding, material infrastructure and equipment. Efficient use of these resources in the planning and implementation of conservation and protection strategies can lead to improved management of the ecosystem, which is a strong safeguard for the sustainable maintenance of its biodiversity. In particular these efficiencies can be used to maximize the success of species research, management, knowledge, breeding, nursery and reintroduction programmes and the sustainable, equitable exploitation of natural resources such as ecosystem services and ecotourism. They can also be used to minimize the impacts of invasive species and pathogens, wildfires and floods and the effects of illegal human activity such as poaching and smuggling. This level of cooperation is not easy to initiate or maintain and some suggest that once underway coordination efforts can even impede day-to-day management functions.