Conservation Effectiveness

Conservation agencies spending money on land conservation or management is the primary strategy for enacting biodiversity conservation. At least, we think it enacts biodiversity conservation. The problem is, very little work has been done to attempt to gauge the effectiveness of funding biodiversity conservation efforts, especially when taking into account strategic decision making. I am working with Michael Bode, at the University of Melbourne, to develop a  game theoretic model that can be used to assess the biological conservation outcome due to spending by agencies in a multi-player system. 
  • Optimizing Management Investment:
Preserving land for biodiversity conservation involves tremendous monetary investment; initially for acquisition, but also continually for management. If the goal is to attain the biggest conservation "bang for your buck", the cost of management must be incorporated into conservation planning efforts. To this end I am developing a decision-making framework to help managers decide the schedule of management investment that will maximize long term biodiversity conservation goals. 
  • Management Costs and Benefits:
Contemporary conservation efforts primarily involve limiting development on tracts of land in an effort to preserve the species present there. These tracts are often part of a fragmented landscape that no longer can support the large-scale ecological processes that promoted the species of interest in the first place. In these cases anthropogenic management is necessary to provide analogous processes and fulfill the  conservation objective of long term protection of the species of interest . I am working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to quantify the management effort that is needed to maintain current site condition as well as the cost of changing condition towards some future desired condition. 
  • Invadedness of Conservation Lands:
One significant management cost involves treatment and prevention of invasive species infestation of conservation lands. I developed a model of site invasive plant "invadedness" (proportion invaded) based on features of the site itself, and then used data on funding for treatment of invasive plants to examine the relationship between funding and invadedness. Site size and surrounding house density predicted both how invaded a site was likely to be and how money was likely to be spent for treatment. However, there was no relationship between how invaded a site actually was and the amount of funding allocated towards treatment. This result suggests that current funding is insufficient for management, and that an estimation of long term costs based on current funding may be an underestimate of needs.

I am currently expanding this analysis to include species specific estimates of invadedness and cost.  This work will examine the relationship between funding and invadedness for the species that are specifically targeted by the treatment funding agency.

 For more information see Publications

  • Invasive Plants in Florida:
Invasive plant infestations are of conservation concern because they can negatively impact native community structure by changing ecological processes or via competitive exclusion. Plant invasions are particularly widespread in Florida, partially because of the conducive climate, and partially because of the extensive development pressure/disturbance to natural communities throughout the state. I worked on a project that mapped the occurrence and distribution of Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council listed invasive species on all of the >1800 publicly owned conservation lands in the state. The objective of the project was to develop a publicly accessible management database that could be used for treatment planning at the site scale, yet also for statewide decision making and funding allocation at the legislative level.

For more information see the FNAI website page for the FLinv geodatabase project:
  • Species Diversity/ Longleaf Pine Savanna:
The factors that influence patterns of species richness are of ongoing interest in ecology and conservation. The most species rich system in North America is the longleaf pine savanna of the Southeastern US. In this system the grass dominated herbaceous understory can have small scale species richness levels as high as 50 species per square meter. I studied how stochasticity in seed rain and recruitment microsite availability regulates seedling species richness and community composition. My work suggests that moisture regulated recruitment limitation is a driver of community diversity in this system.

For more information see Publications