Mapping human and social dimensions of conservation opportunity for the scheduling of conservation action on private land

Andrew T. Knight, Richard M. Cowling, Mark Difford, Bruce M. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

165 Citations (Scopus)


Spatial prioritization techniques are applied in conservation-planning initiatives to allocate conservation resources. Although typically they are based on ecological data (e.g., species, habitats, ecological processes), increasingly they also include nonecological data, mostly on the vulnerability of valued features and economic costs of implementation. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of conservation actions implemented through conservation-planning initiatives is a function of the human and social dimensions of social-ecological systems, such as stakeholders' willingness and capacity to participate. We assessed human and social factors hypothesized to define opportunities for implementing effective conservation action by individual land managers (those responsible for making day-to-day decisions on land use) and mapped these to schedule implementation of a private land conservation program. We surveyed 48 land managers who owned 301 land parcels in the Makana Municipality of the Eastern Cape province in South Africa. Psychometric statistical and cluster analyses were applied to the interview data so as to map human and social factors of conservation opportunity across a landscape of regional conservation importance. Four groups of landowners were identified, in rank order, for a phased implementation process. Furthermore, using psychometric statistical techniques, we reduced the number of interview questions from 165 to 45, which is a preliminary step toward developing surrogates for human and social factors that can be developed rapidly and complemented with measures of conservation value, vulnerability, and economic cost to more-effectively schedule conservation actions. This work provides conservation and land management professionals direction on where and how implementation of local-scale conservation should be undertaken to ensure it is feasible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1348-1358
Number of pages11
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes


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