Evaluating the Potential for Conservation Development: Biophysical, Economic, and Institutional Perspectives

Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, United States
Conservation Biology (Impact Factor: 4.17). 03/2007; 21(1):69-78. DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2006.00572.x
Source: PubMed


The widespread conversion of rural land to low-density residential development poses an immediate threat to biodiversity and to the provision of ecosystem services. Given that development will continue and environmental stakes are high, analyzing alternative growth strategies is critical. Conservation development is one such strategy that has the potential to benefit ecosystems and diverse stakeholders including developers, homebuyers, governments, and society as a whole. Conservation development clusters homes on one part of a property to manage the most ecologically important land for the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. We draw on lessons learned from landscape ecology, open-space development, and regional planning to weigh the biophysical, economic, and institutional evidence for and against conservation development. Conservation development offers many potential environmental and economic advantages: relatively high home values and appreciation rates, lower development costs, and social and ecological benefits to society including landscape connectivity, protection and active stewardship of important ecological assets, and the maintenance of ecosystem services. But this approach also has shortcomings: it may require enlightened institutional regulations and regional planning (and/or ecologically aware developers), it is not always more profitable than conventional development and thus may require subsidies or incentives, and additional research is required to fully understand its benefits and drawbacks. With more information on the effects of clustering, the development of flexible zoning laws, and effective regional planning, conservation development could be a viable strategy for sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem services in changing landscapes.
Resumen: La conversión generalizada de terrenos rurales a desarrollos residenciales de baja densidad es una de las amenazas inmediatas para la biodiversidad y para el suministro de servicios ambientales. Debido a que el desarrollo continuará y que las apuestas ambientales son altas, el análisis de estrategias alternativas de crecimiento es crítico. El desarrollo para la conservación es una de esas estrategias que tiene el potencial para beneficiar a los ecosistemas así como a los actores diversos, incluyendo urbanizadores, compradores, gobiernos y la sociedad en conjunto. El desarrollo para la conservación agrupa a las casas en una parte de la propiedad y maneja la parte ecológicamente más importante para la conservación de la biodiversidad y los servicios ambientales. Se parte de lecciones aprendidas de la ecología del paisaje, el desarrollo de espacios abiertos y la planificación regional para sopesar la evidencia biofísica, económica e institucional a favor y en contra del desarrollo para la conservación. El desarrollo para la conservación potencialmente ofrece muchas ventajas ambientales y económicas: casas con valor y tasas de aprecio relativamente altas, menores costos de desarrollo y beneficios sociales y ecológicos para la sociedad, incluyendo conectividad del paisaje, protección y administración activa de valores ecológicos importantes y el mantenimiento de los servicios ambientales. Pero este enfoque también tiene defectos: puede requerir de regulaciones institucionales y planificación regional bien informadas (y/o urbanizadores con conciencia ecológica), no siempre es más rentable que el desarrollo convencional y por lo tanto puede requerir de subsidios o incentivos y se requiere de más investigación para comprender sus beneficios e inconvenientes completamente. Con más información sobre los efectos del agrupamiento, la promoción de leyes de zonificación flexibles y la planificación regional efectiva, el desarrollo para la conservación podría ser una estrategia viable para mantener la biodiversidad y los servicios ambientales en paisajes cambiantes.

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    • "Rural residential growth is of special conservation concern, because rural development typically occurs at lower densities with larger individual lot sizes, spreading the impacts of each house over a larger area and maximizing the cumulative footprint of housing development (Heimlich and Anderson 2001; Pejchar et al. 2007; Theobald et al. 1997). The genesis of rural housing growth in the United States is in the migration turnaround or ''rural renaissance'' of the 1970s, which represented the first reversal of longstanding rural-to-urban migration trends in the United States (Fuguitt 1985; Long and DeAre 1988). "
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    • "In order to reverse this trend and to conserve biodiversity in residential landscapes, CDs need to have long-term and biologically-informed stewardship plans with steady sources of funding that promote management of built and conserved space (Arendt, 1996; Hostetler, 2010; Hostetler & Drake, 2009; Hostetler, Allen, & Meurk, 2011; Pejchar et al., 2007; Reed et al., 2014). "
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    • "The most important issues will not be fully addressed by collecting more biological data, paying stakeholders to acquiesce, or giving local people decision-making authority. Such issues include: overabundant wildlife (Lunney et al. 2008), wildlife feeding and harassment , road construction (Trombulak and Frissell 2000), the wildlife pet trade (Fabinyi 2009), listing and delisting of endangered species, setting harvest levels in internationally valuable species such as bluefin tuna (Kolody et al. 2008) and whales (Bowett and Hay 2009; Gross 2010), human overpopulation (Peterson, M. N. et al. 2007a), housing sprawl (Pejchar et al. 2007; Peterson, M. N. et al. 2008), moral treatment of animals (Lunney 2012a,b), zoonotic diseases (Bidwell 2009), protected area establishment and management (Chan et al. 2007; Robbins et al. 2009; McShane et al. 2011), forestry (Freudenburg et al. 1998), agricultural expansion (Harvey et al. 2008), and climate change (Duffy 2011). "
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