Systematic Conservation Planning (SCP) is developed in needs of objective and effective evaluation of where to direct conservation efforts, in last 30 years. It is developed trough contribution of many different scientists and conservation experts. There are thousands of publications on SCP and many different conservation prioritization exercises conducted by using SCP. However, adapting SCP procedure into local situation and maintaining stakeholder involvement is critical for mainstreaming SCP and carrying it into the national scale.
The main strength of the SCP lies in its flexibility to set targets, objectives and priorities depending on the stakeholder demands, possibility to engage the stakeholder participation and most importantly presenting the priorities with quantitative data so that further discussions can be carried out in more objective manner. These are key elements to promote any tool for national scale use and acceptance.
The SCP studies focusing on different regions of Turkey were started by the Nature Conservation Centre (DKM) experts after 1998 started with the aim of developing an objective and systematic approach to delineate conservation priorities at regional scales. Within its course of evolution, SCP became an effective conservation planning tool where biological and socio-economical information could be taken into consideration together. It also facilitated us to communicate and discuss its outcomes with a wider audience. As a result, it was very quickly adopted at the national scale thanks to its flexible structure and its multi-criteria decision opportunities. SCP has become a real success in conservation planning in Turkey not only given its sophisticated algorithms, but also because it was implemented by actively involving stakeholders at the earliest phases of the assessments, in order to ensure that sound conservation outcomes will be reached during the implementation phase.
In this respect, in 2004, the Biodiversity Monitoring Unit established under the Ministry of Forestry, acknowledged that SCP is the national approach to be used on development of protected area network and prioritization of conservation efforts. Secondly, SCP came into play as an important tool in the work of Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs General Directorate of Forestry (GDF) towards integration of biodiversity into management of forests. And lastly, Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks announced officially that SCP approach will be used as the methodology to identify Natura 2000 sites during the harmonization with the EU acquis.
In the below case we tried to explain how we utilized these features and trough which steps and studies SCP has become nationally accepted conservation planning tool.
Turkey has updated her NBSAP on 2007 for the period of 2008-2018. In this updated NBSAP, there are 10 goals defined under the three goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity. SCP work in Turkey has contributed in the below stated goals and objectives underneath:
GOAL 1: To identify, protect and monitor biological diversity components which have importance for Turkey
Objective 1.1: In order to determine and monitor any changes in ecosystems, species and genetic diversity, to develop and implement biological diversity inventory and monitoring methods and programmes, by considering rapid assessment methods and biological diversity indicators, as well.
Objective 1.2: To include the less-represented ecosystems, species and genetic diversity centers into protected areas of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and to achieve an effective protected area
Objective 1.3: To prevent or minimize as far as possible any pressures on and threats to biological diversity.
GOAL 2: To use biological diversity components in a sustainable manner by applying the methods and at level fitting to their renewal capacity by taking the future generations’ needs into account
Objective 2.2 To develop and put into practice the ecosystem-based planning and management systems for the purposes of the biological diversity conservation and the sustainable use of biological resources
GOAL 5: To protect steppe biological diversity, to ensure the sustainable use of its components, as well as to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the utilization of genetic resources; and to combat against the loss of steppe biological diversity and the socio-economic results of that
Objective 5.1. To fill the information gaps concerning steppe biological diversity
Objective 5.2. To identify ecological, physical and social processes such as grazing, drought, desertification, aridity, salinity, flood, fires, tourism, agricultural transformation or abandonment which have adverse impacts on the biological diversity of steppe ecosystems and mainly on the ecosystem structure and function, and to take measures regarding the above
GOAL 6: To establish an effective monitoring, management and coordination system for the conservation of forest biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components
Objective 6.1. To develop and put into practice the monitoring programmes for better evaluation of the status and tendency of forest biological diversity
Objective 6.2. To establish appropriate mechanisms for more effective conservation and sustainable use of forest biological diversity
GOAL 7: To establish an effective monitoring, management and coordination system for the conservation and sustainable use of mountain biological diversity, together with its different ecosystems, pursuing a holistic approach
Objective 7.1. To effectively implement biological and ecological inventories, monitoring programmes and classification systems
Objective 7.2. To establish appropriate mechanisms for the conservation and sustainable use of sensitive mountain ecosystems
GOAL 8: To develop and implement effective methods for the conservation of inland waters biological diversity, the maintenance of ecological functions of inland waters ecosystems, and the sustainable use of these ecosystems
Objective 8.1. To strength technical and institutional capacity for the conservation and sustainable use of inland waters biological diversity
Objective 8.2. To take actions for the conservation and sustainability of inland waters biological diversity and reduce threats to it
The history of protected areas in Turkey dates back to mid 1950s. Upto 1990s, the protected areas were delineated under 5 different categories, usually in an ad-hoc manner under the Ministry of Forestry (current Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs). And the selection was not corresponding to the diversity of ecosystems in Turkey; the majority of protected areas targeted forest ecosystems. In parallel to the identification of protected areas, NGOs and academicians were involved in the delineation of sites important for different biodiversity elements of Turkey (e.g. Important Bird Areas, Important Plant Areas, Important Sea Turtle Nesting Habitats). Within the spirit of that time, the teams involved in the identification of these biologically important sites were lobbying strongly to the government for “their approach” being chosen as the methodology for identifying protected areas. While dealing with the problems occurring in their legal protected areas, Turkey was also dealing with the pressures arising from these conservationists, who were also supported by international organizations.
Similar to many other countries, a great majority of protected areas in Turkey consisted of forest sites distinguished for their landscape beauties. And the management of these sites was quite problematic at that time. The biggest problem was the high expectations created in local people about the tourism and development opportunities the national parks delineations would bring. While not meeting the expectations of local people was becoming a real source of frustration, the limitation on people’s basic livelihood activities due to the presence of protected areas was also causing an increase in the tensions.
In such an environment, the Ministry of Forestry was rather cautious about the new protected area identification approaches proposed by NGOs and academicians. This is how this topic gained importance and started to be discussed in different platforms intensively in Turkey.
As of the end of 1990s, the hot topics, which needed solutions were as follows:
1. Identification of protected areas in a systematic way
2. Taking into consideration information on different taxa and biodiversity elements objectively and also corresponding to the expectations of different conservationist stakeholders
3. Favoring sites which will generate less problems socio-economically,
4. Choosing optimal solutions where representation of highest number of biodiversity elements can be ensured at lowest number of sites.
It was precisely in order to address issues mentioned above, conservation efforts began to employ the Systematic Conservation Planning (SCP) approach. The first SCP studies focusing on different regions of Turkey were started by the Nature Conservation Centre (DKM) experts after 1998. The first studies mainly included species groups and main ecological communities. However, in each of the regional studies, the SCP methodology was enhanced significantly, and different aspects of biodiversity, e.g. ecological and evolutionary processes, were integrated as biodiversity layers.
In the first stage of SCP studies, the main focus was on gathering biodiversity data, evaluating them and producing various biodiversity layers. All stages of the data gathering process were carefully planned and organized, in order to ensure gathering trustworthy, systematically collected data, both through literature and field surveys. For example, data entry form applications were prepared that involved programing so as to find data entry errors. Also, planning for field work involved dividing the studied region in to environmentally distinct classes, employing stratified random sampling and concentrating on filling data gaps.
In the second phase of the studies, we focused on two main subjects:
1. Adding socio-economical data to the biodiversity data
2. Presenting the SCP approach to the governmental bodies and setting the required infrastructure towards working together on the topic.
The socio-economic data were integrated into the evaluations through parameters involving the cost of conservation, anthropogenic threats to biodiversity, and conservation opportunities. As a measure of conservation cost, we used some anthropogenic land use indicators that are basically impossible to reverse, rather than direct costs, which are impossible to measure and quantify. For this, we assessed the intensity of human activities as a measure of weight with a distance function. Factors such as, road network density, livestock numbers, distances to settlements, agricultural areas, industrial plantations etc. were assigning different weights according to their impacts, and a distance function was defined for each. As a result, a layer presenting the impact of human activities that cannot be reversed was produced.
The second socio-economic layer produced was the "Threat layer". In this stage of the regional SCP studies in Turkey, the Ministry of Forestry and Water Resources became directly involved in the assessments. Therefore, the threat layers were produced with the direct contribution of local and central teams of the Ministry. Through this involvement, local experts who work directly on the field, and thus well aware and informed about the threats acting on natural resources in their regions, could contribute directly in identifying the locations and intensities of threats. Bringing in this know-how was an important added value of our SCP studies, and permitted us to produce a detailed and accurate threat layer instead of using more generic and unreliable information (Fig.1).
(see Attachment for the figure).
The socio-economic layer incorporated in the next step was the "Conservation Opportunities". Our collaborations with the private sector did play a major role in the development of this layer. Their business approach steered us to consider the conservation practices that would also create economical opportunities for local people, permitting changing the negative perception of conservation as a limiting factor to human activities. As a result of these interactions, we developed the Conservation Opportunities layer. We can define it as the possibility to generate economic income or benefits to local people, as a consequence of any conservation action taken in an area or of its delineation as a protected area. In one of our regional SCP studies at the Anatolian Diagonal (covering Eastern Mediterranean and Eastern Anatolian Ecoregions), we evaluated opportunities for sustainable tourism and organic/high nature value agriculture as conservation opportunities. For sustainable tourism, under three criteria (natural capacity, organizational capacity and infrastructure capacity), we used 13 variables (e.g. wilderness, landscape beauty, access from airports) and for organic/ high nature value agriculture, under three criteria (pollution, agricultural capacity and marketing capacity), we used seven variables (e.g. pollutants, intensive agricultural practices, proximity to settlements) in order to assign relative scores/values to each of our planning units, as a measure of its potential towards hosting conservation opportunities. We then combined these into a single â€Conservation Opportunitiesâ€ layer (Fig. ).
(see Attachment for the figure).
Figure 1. The threat (a) and conservation opportunities (b) layers produced in the Anatolian Diagonal Region SCP study. In the map the darker brown colored areas are those hosting higher intensity of threats (a) or higher conservation opportunities (b)
Using all these biological and socio-economical layers, we then employed spatial optimization algorithms in order to select sites of conservation priority that:
- Satisfy all conservation goals
- In the least number of sites/least total area
- With the lowest possible total cost of conservation
- By including sites with most urgent threats
- And by including sites with highest conservation opportunities.
Figure 2. (see Attachment for figure 2) The map showing the impact of using both biological and socio-economical data while selecting sites of conservation priority. Left map shows the outcomes of the site selection process only using only biodiversity information (a), while right hand map shows the outcomes with socio-economical information integrated (b).
The SCP approach did not only enable us to carry out an optimization process which takes into account all these different elements and goals and produce sound outcomes, but also it facilitated us to communicate and discuss its outcomes with a wider audience. This approach enables establishing bridges with different stakeholders. In this respect, we carried out numerous meetings with representatives from tourism, energy, mining and other sectors in order to seek their involvement into different stages of our SCP studies.
The SCP process, which started with the aim of developing an objective and systematic approach to delineate conservation priorities at a regional scale, was very quickly adopted at the national scale thanks to its flexible structure and its multi-criteria decision opportunities. The high level adoption of the approach was also linked to the trainings given to different ministerial bodies and the discussions carried out with those experts towards how to better adapt the SCP approach to correspond to their existing problems. As DKM, we always gave a high importance to carry out the regional SCP projects together with relevant stakeholders and we always sought ways of integrating their comments and ideas into the SCP approach. We believe, it is the best to avoid sharing the outcomes of such studies to concerned stakeholders as just a map with list of sites which needs to be protected. This traditional way of working which excludes stakeholders, would not only be limited in corresponding to the on the ground realities, furthermore it will also prevent establishing long-term cooperations between stakeholders.
In SCP studies, the quality and the trustworthiness of the data is of prime importance. An accurate sampling procedure and representativeness is required. The analyses carried out in the absence of accurate data will produce misleading results. Therefore, it is very crucial to pay special attention to the data used.
Secondly, the outcomes of the assessments may not always correspond to the on the ground realities, at such cases the recommendations of the managers should be taken into account with attention. The outcomes of the assessment carried out using the SCP approach should therefore not be seen as ultimate products, but they should rather be seen as guidelines which prepare the necessary ground for discussions.
SCP has sophisticated analysis stage and many of the involved groups has tendency to deepen the methodological discussions. However, the balance between methodological discussions and delivering implementable outputs is critical. This balance is critical for wide acceptance of the proposed approach and to make it a nationally accepted.
Scientific approaches and objective assessments are very important, but it is even more important to actively involve stakeholders at the earliest phases of the assessments, in order to ensure that sound conservation outcomes will be reached during the implementation phase. When the stakeholders are not effectively involved in the procedure, SCP studies generally remain to be academic work without an implementation phase.
There are many proofs to the success of the SCP approach. Firstly, in 2004, the Biodiversity Monitoring Unit established under the Ministry of Forestry, acknowledged that SCP is the national approach to be used on development of protected area network and prioritization of conservation efforts.
Secondly, SCP came into play as an important tool in the work of Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs General Directorate of Forestry (GDF) towards integration of biodiversity into management of forests. GDF employed the outcomes of the regional SCP assessments (sites of conservation priority identified) to decide on where to carry out the integration work. It even allocated its own financial resources to support a SCP work in the Black Sea Region for this exact reason. Then, to prepare management plans within these sites of conservation priority, SCP was again used towards optimization among timber production, social priorities and conservation priorities. The developed procedure was announced by the GDF as the institutional approach adopted towards the integration of biodiversity into forestry planning. A similar approach is also in process with the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock. Again using SCP as a basis and by taking into account ecosystem goods and services, we are trying to develop land management procedures, which favors conservation – exploitation balance.
Lastly, Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks announced officially that SCP approach will be used as the methodology to identify Natura 2000 sites during the harmonization with the EU acquis. With this approach, for the first time, SCP and the socio-economic data will be used together with biological data in the delineation of Natura 2000 sites.