Living Landscapes Program


The Living Landscapes Program is dedicated to developing

wildlife based strategies for the conservation of large, wild ecosystems

that are integrated in wider landscapes of human influence."

Conservation of wildlands is our goal. Our approach explicitly places wildlife at the center of our conservation strategies, but recognizes that few places on earth remain free from human influence.

Consequently, we develop and test wildlife-based conservation strategies that take into account human impact, and we link monitoring of wildlife directly to assessing conservation progress. By pursuing a common set of strategies and approaches across a globally distributed set of sites, the program promotes inter-site research and learning and develops models of conservation management that are broadly applicable.

Key Concept

Parks and reserves are not enough. Conservation focused solely within the boundaries of national parks, or community forests, or trophy-hunting conservancies, often does not succeed because wildlife, ecological processes, and human resource uses tend to spill across these political borders.

Landscapes are shared by people and wildlife. As people around the world continue to expand into wilderness areas, and as we successfully conserve healthy wildlife populations, the needs of people and the needs of wildlife will increasingly clash. Consequently we must find new and better land-use management practices and policies, to help people and wildlife share the same landscapes. Understanding how to prevent or minimize human-wildlife conflicts within and across land-use zones is essential to ensure the longterm survival of wildlife and wildlands.

The needs of wildlife define landscapes. To set priorities for conservation it is better to use the ecological needs of wildlife, rather than political boundaries, to define the conservation landscape.

Conservation must be cost effective. Funding for biodiversity conservation is not growing as fast as human demand for resources and the speed that wildlife and wildlands are being lost. Consequently we need to set new priorities for conservation spending and develop more cost-effective tools.

The Program's Focus: Wildlife

In the past, attempts to conserve biodiversity within landscapes that span land-use boundaries have typically focused on watershed management or ecosystem management. Unfortunately these concepts are ecologically nebulous, as there is no simple way to define where an ecosystem ends or whether watersheds are ecologically relevant management units. More importantly, neither concept leads easily to a clear understanding of what the targets of conservation investments should be within these landscapes. Without knowing what we are trying to save we have no measurable outcomes of our conservation actions. We are left not knowing what we are conserving, how we will know if we have been successful, and whether or not our spending was worthwhile.

Focusing on wildlife species requires us to be specific about their population and habitat requirements and better understand how and where wildlife and human needs may conflict. This helps us to explicitly define the size and shape of the landscape needed to ensure the long-term persistence of wildlife populations and the underlying ecological processes upon which they depend. Using the status of wildlife populations as a proxy for landscape health, quality and/or integrity, allows us to be specific about where and why conservation investments are needed, what such investments are designed to achieve, and how the success or failure of these interventions will be measured. Focusing on wildlife makes the landscape to be managed geographically unambiguous and ecologically meaningful, and makes the targets for, and outcomes of, conservation investments explicit and measurable.

Key Participants

One of the primary goals of the Living Landscapes Program is to identify and engage key stakeholders in the conservation process. One way this is achieved is through a participatory and iterative threats analysis process. Stakeholders are invited to contribute data, evaluate the quality and gaps in the data, and identify a set of threats to be addressed. Participants then suggest institutions and actions to address each threat. Through this process stakeholders themselves identify problems and actions best suited to address them, identify areas for institutional strengthening or coordination and in the process strengthen their involvement and faith in conservation. As a result, a wide variety of conservation partners including local community groups, governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as private sector entities such as timber and oil companies, are working together within the Living Landscapes Program.

The Significance of Landscape Species

Though some plants and animals are tolerant of or even thrive on human disturbance, many more are not, and even very limited use by humans places them at risk of extermination. Animals with large home ranges and varied habitat requirements are often most prone to local extinction. They are vulnerable to habitat loss, tend to encounter and conflict with humans most often, and are generally found at low densities.

Moreover, these species often play important ecological roles, and their disappearance risks fundamental and far reaching changes in ecosystem structure and function. As a result, these landscape species are likely to serve as effective conservation umbrellas. We argue that by meeting the diverse and extensive habitat needs of landscape species, and by minimizing direct or indirect threats to their survival, we will ensure their long term persistence. By so doing, we will address factors that threaten many other plants and animals that occupy the same habitats, rely on the same ecological processes, and are affected by the same human activities.

A Landscape Species Approach allows us to define the conservation landscape based on the ecological needs of wildlife and the geographic location and severity of human-wildlife conflicts. In this way, priorities for conservation are set by the resource requirements of landscape species, rather than the location of political, protected area, or other land-use boundaries.

A System For Success

Defining the conservation landscape required to meet the diverse habitat needs of a suite of landscape speciesthat in combination, depend on the full range of major habitat types within a wild area, provides the basis for a strong, focused, scientifically-based approach to biological conservation at the site-level. Moreover, by evaluating the needs of a complementary set of landscape species, we can explicitly assess threats to their long-term persistence and set priorities for conservation actions to avoid or mitigate key conflicts with people.

To minimize clashes between people and animals, we must identify where and why human and wildlife needs intersect in time and space. This requires that we gather information in the area, understand where and how people use the land and natural resources, and characterize the habitat use requirements of landscape species. To take action to minimize key conflicts between wildlife and people we must work closely with resource users, civil society organizations, private sector companies, and public sector agencies to develop the constituency and capacity for wildlife conservation.

"...Saving WILDLIFE - Saving WILD LAND..."

Western Forest Complex

Key Species

Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex

Key Species

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