The Currency of Conservation: How Is Landscape Extent Applied in Conservation Planning?


Purpose of Review

We asked how the concept of landscape extent is used in conservation planning. To narrow the scope of our review, we focused on four iconic species depicted on Canadian currency: the beaver (Castor canadensis), the caribou (Rangifer tarandus), the common loon (Gavia immer), and the polar bear (Ursus maritimus).

Recent Findings

Landscape ecology research suggests that a landscape is a species-specific construct arising from the spatial scales over which ecological processes occur. Species traits can be correlated with the scales of important effects and thus can identify relevant landscape extents for research and conservation. It is unclear, however, how the theoretical concept of landscape extent is applied in conservation practice.


For the four iconic species in our study, we found an inconsistent use of species-specific traits in definitions of landscape extent for conservation planning. For two species, the caribou and the polar bear, species-specific traits were used to define conservation units, for defining either Designatable Units for assessment of at-risk status or for defining herds or subpopulations for management actions. No species-specific traits were identified in spatial frameworks used in loon or beaver conservation planning, as both were included in multi-species management approaches. Our review suggests a type of research implementation gap. Conservation units are often defined based on political or administrative boundaries rather than by species-specific processes. We suggest that landscape extent be implemented as a hypothesis in an adaptive management framework when possible. Additionally, we encourage research approaches that explicitly incorporate policy considerations into research design.

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Fig. 1


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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The authors would like to thank Marisa Bivi for providing the graphics of Canadian coins. Nancy Davy from Environment and Climate Change Canada for providing the COSEWIC report of the Common Loon.


Funding for this research was provided by the NSERC CREATE and Discovery grants to JB, an NSERC scholarship to PPO, and by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

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All authors contributed equally to literature review, analysis, and manuscript preparation.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jeff Bowman.

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Kirsten Solmundson, Jeff Bowman, Elizabeth Adey, Jennifer Baici, Rachel Dillon, Arthur Dupuis, Robby Marrotte, Samantha Morin, Sasha Newar, Paul O’Brien, and Laura Scott declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Solmundson, K., Bowman, J., Adey, E. et al. The Currency of Conservation: How Is Landscape Extent Applied in Conservation Planning?. Curr Landscape Ecol Rep 5, 1–11 (2020).

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  • Landscape extent
  • Applications
  • Conservation planning
  • Government
  • Species management
  • Scale