Regional conservation assessments are a process to help prioritize conservation activities. Examples include Ecoregional Assessment, conservation return on investment, tradeoff analysis and multi-objective spatial planning.
They should be used to help answer specific conservation questions:
- what biodiversity and ecological processes we should focus our work on,
- where we should work to efficiently achieve regional objectives,
- which of these places are the highest priority, and
- to an increasing extent, how we should work in these places
Ecoregional Assessments (ERAs) conducted by The Nature Conservancy are an excellent example of regional conservation assessments. Because of the organization history with this approach, much guidance exists to help support this process or be adapted for other, similar approaches. That said, Ecoregional Assessments represent one version of a regional assessment. Other ideas gaining traction in TNC and the conservation community include conservation return on investment, multi-objective spatial planning and tradeoff analysis.
Within TNC, the sites identified through regional conservation assessments are likely to represent two related products: 1. the full suite of places that the conservation community needs to work in order to conserve regional biodiversity, and 2. Priorities for investment of TNC resources (including funds and time). Importantly, the second of these is tied closely to the strategies we have available, and the distribution of opportunities for and constraints on implementing these strategies. However, it is important to recognize that the products and uses of regional assessments are more than a spatial suite of conservation priorities. Regional conservation assessments are essentially decision support systems: a set of tools, analyses and products that answer specific questions about ecological and socioeconomic patterns and trends to guide conservation investments. They should not be viewed as a one-off, static product. Regional assessments are dynamic and need to be updated, modified and revisited, as either the questions or the ecological and social patterns change.