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Incorporating biological information in local land-use decision making: designing a system for conservation planning

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Human settlement is a formidable agent of change affecting fundamental ecological processes. Decisions governing these land-use changes occur almost exclusively at the local level and, as a result, they are made at many different locations and times. Consequently, it is difficult for ecologists to provide needed scientific support for these choices. We built an information system designed to support conservation decisions at local scales by offering data over the Internet. We collaborated with local stakeholders (e.g., developers, planners, politicians, land owners, environmental activists) to design the system. This collaboration produced several generalizations about effective design of information systems to support conservation. The most important of these is the idea that ecological data and analysis must be understood by those who will be affected by the decisions. Also, planning for conservation is a process that uses scientific data, but that ultimately depends on the expression of human values. A major challenge landscape ecologists face is to extend general landscape principles to provide specific scientific information needed for local land-use planning.

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Theobald, D.M., Hobbs, N., Bearly, T. et al. Incorporating biological information in local land-use decision making: designing a system for conservation planning. Landscape Ecology 15, 35–45 (2000).

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  • collaborative design
  • conservation planning
  • GIS
  • land use