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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Available from: Liba Pejchar
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    • "Urban and built-up land may be only a small portion of contemporary landscapes, both in the US and globally, but with population growth, declining household sizes, and increased urbanization of the population (60 % of the world's population is predicted to live in urban areas by 2030; United Nations Secretariat 2006), the proportion of urban lands will necessarily increase in the future. With urbanization likely to continue in some form for the foreseeable future (Marzluff and Ewing 2001), it is critical to evaluate how urbanization affects species and ecosystems in order to inform future landscape development policies, leading to more ecologically sensitive development trends and patterns, such as conservation subdivisions or developments (e.g., see Pejchar et al. 2007; Reed et al. 2014). To accomplish this task we must focus on the ecosystems that are at greatest threat of direct transition to urban uses, those landscapes at the urban–rural interface (i.e. the leading edge of urbanization; hereafter referred to as the interface). "
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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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    ABSTRACT: Conservation development (CD) refers to a set of land development techniques aimed at minimizing impacts on natural resources. Typically, homes are clustered and open space is set aside for conservation. The evidence for the effectiveness of CDs in conserving biodiversity is mixed, with some studies attributing these results to a lack of stewardship in conserved areas. The purpose of this research was to ask landowners and developers to evaluate which conservation practices, as part of a policy scenario, would be most acceptable. We surveyed landowners and developers who had created CDs in north-central Colorado; we solicited their attitudes about native wildlife conservation and willingness to adopt four conservation practices, given proposed incentive-based policies. We also conducted semi-structured interviews with respondents to elaborate on their response to these proposed incentives, as well as two potential funding mechanisms for managing the open space for biodiversity (homeowners’ association dues and a property tax). Overall, we found moderate support for the conservation practices, some interest in two types of incentives (a housing density bonus and fast-tracking permits), and opposition to the two proposed funding mechanisms for land stewardship. Our findings suggest that CD developers in Colorado would be willing to adopt conservation practices, and are generally supportive of incentive-based policies, but greater understanding of homeowners’ willingness to pay for conservation features is needed to gain support for a funding mechanism.
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