Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 49, Issue 2–3, pp 123–155 | Cite as

A Systems Approach to Biodiversity Conservation Planning

  • Nina-Marie E. Lister


With a recent media-fueled transition from a scientific to a political perspective, biodiversity has become an issue of ethics and ensuing values, beyond its traditional ecological roots. More fundamentally, the traditional perspective of biodiversity is being challenged by the emergence of a post-normal or systems-based approach to science. A systems-based perspective of living systems rests on the central tenets of complexity and uncertainty, and necessitates flexibility, anticipation and adaptation rather than prediction and control in conservation planning and management. What are the implications of this new perspective? This paper examines these challenges in the context of biodiversity conservation planning. The new perspectives of biodiversity are identified and explored, and the emergence of a new ecological context for biodiversity conservation is discussed. From the analysis, the challenges and implications for conservation planning are considered, and a systems-based or post-normal approach to conservation planning and management is proposed. In light of the new perspectives for biodiversity, conservation planning and management approaches should ultimately reflect the essence of living systems: they should be diverse, adaptive, and self-organizing, accepting the ecological realities of change.

adaptive management biodiversity conservation planning ecosystem planning post-normal science 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nina-Marie E. Lister
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Urban and Regional Planning, Faculty of Environmental StudiesUniversity of WaterlooOntarioCanada

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