Conservation and development in production landscapes

Strategies to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services in production landscapes

Protected areas may be the cornerstone of biodiversity conservation strategies, but they are not adequate nor sufficient to protect a full range of biodiversity across the wider landscape. They also do not supply all the values we can derive from healthy, functioning ecosystems where and when we need them.

In this project, we focus on conservation and development strategies in production landscapes – where satisfying the multiple objectives of diverse stakeholders is a key policy challenge. It is a complex problem, involving many alternative land management options across biophysically and socially heterogeneous landscapes. We aim to identify and design conservation strategies that are effective, efficient, and equitable for all stakeholders.

Our project has three overarching aims:

  1. Improving model design and parameterisation: we will integrate recent developments in causal inference and impact evaluation into our research, not just through improving the evidence base, but also by understanding what constitutes the ‘best available data’ and the best use of available data in different contexts.
  2. Develop and apply novel methods to analyse trade-offs: recent advances in optimization and computing are starting to allow us to complex problems with numerous objectives. We apply these novel methods to analyse policy options for three key case study regions (described below).
  3. Improve theory for land sharing and land sparing: Land use policies can generally be constructed as either land sharing (i.e. integrating land use objectives) or land sparing (i.e. separation of land use objectives). We will analyse the preference for these policies for multiple ecosystem services in heterogeneous landscapes, in order to develop generalized theory

We are developing three case studies, across three continents, which highlight and exemplify key conservation and development challenges:

The intensive agricultural regions of Australia, and focus on the Brigalow Belt regional ecosystem


The Coastal Doulas Fir and Associated Ecosystems, of British Columbia, Canada


The Ex-Mega Rice Project, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia


Read these stories in Decision Point magazine…

DPoint92cover3-156x220Causal inference in conservation

How can we be confident that a conservation intervention had a positive impact? This was the central question at a recent workshop at the University of Queensland on causal inference.

We’ve all heard the adage that ‘correlation does not imply causation’ – so we wanted to find out what does! We brought in Paul Ferraro, an international expert on the topic to train 30 CEED staff and students on the art (and science) of causal inference. (Paul is the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University; he’s also an advisor to the Global Environmental Facility). Paul has over a decade of experience… read more


Kerrie WilsonElizabeth LawTruly SantikaRachel Friedman, Blake Alexander Simmons, Courtney Morgans, Konrad Uebel, Matthew Roetteler


Erik MeijaardJonathan RhodesClive McAlpine, Brett Bryan, Peter ArcesePaul FerraroRichard Schuster, Jocelyn Sze 

Linked themes

Ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation



Key references

Simmons, B.A., Marcos-Martinez, R., Law, E.A., Bryan, B. A. and Wilson, K.A. 2018. Frequent policy uncertainty can negate the benefits of forest conservation policy. Environmental Science & Policy. 89: 401-411.

Simmons, B. A., Law, E., Marcos-Martinez, R., Bryan, B. A., McAlpine, C. and Wilson, K. A. 2018. Spatial and temporal patterns of land clearing during policy change. Land Use Policy. 75: 399-410.

Abram, N.K., Meijaard, E., Wilson, K.A., Davis, J.T., Wells, J.A., Ancrenaz, M., Budiharta, S., Durrant, A., Fakhruzzi, A., Runting, R.K., Gaveau, D., Mengersen, K. 2017. Oil palm-community conflict mapping in Indonesia: A case for better community liaison in planning for development initiatives. Applied Geography. 78: 33-44.

Santika, T., Meijaard, T., Budiharta, S., Law, E.A., Kusworo, A., Hutabarat, J.A., Indrawan, T.P., Struebig, M., Raharjo, S., Huda, I., Sulhani, Ekaputri, A.D., Trison, S., Stigner, M., Wilson, K.A. 2017. Community forest management in Indonesia: avoided deforestation in the context of anthropogenic and climate complexities. Global Environmental Change. 46: 60-71.

Santika, T., Ancrenaz, M., Wilson, K. A., Spehar, S., Abram, N., Banes, G. L., Campbell-Smith, G., Curran, L., d’Arcy, L., Delgado, R. A., Erman, A., Goossens, B., Hartanto, H., Houghton, M., Husson, S. J., Kuehl, H. S., Lackman, I., Leiman, A., Sanchez, K. L., Makinuddin, N., Marshall, A. J., Meididit, A., Mengersen, K., Nardiyono, Musnanda, Nurcahyo, A., Odom, K., Panda, A., Prasetyo, D., Purnomo, Rafiastanto, A., Raharjo, Slamet, R., Ratnasari, D., Russon, A. E., Santana, A. H., Santoso, E., Sapari, I., Sihite, J., Suyoko, A., Tjiu, A., Utami-Atmoko, S. S., van Schaik, C. P., Voigt, M., Wells, J., Wich, S. A., Willems, E. P. and Meijaard, E. 2017. First integrative trend analysis for a great ape species in Borneo. Scientific Reports. 7: 4839.

Runting, R. K., E. Meijaard, N. K. Abram, J. A. Wells, D. L. A. Gaveau, M. Ancrenaz, H. P. Possingham, S. A. Wich, F. Ardiansyah, M. T. Gumal, L. Ambu, & K. A. Wilson. 2015. Alternative futures for Borneo show the value of integrating economic and conservation targets across borders. Nature Communications. 6: 6819.

Santika, T., McAlpine, C. A., Lunney, D., Wilson, K. A., and Rhodes. J. R. 2015. Assessing spatio-temporal priorities for species’ recovery in broad-scale dynamic landscapes. Journal of Applied Ecology. 52(4): 832-840.

Santika, T., Meijaard E., and Wilson, K.A. 2015. Designing multifunctional landscapes for forest conservation. Environmental Research Letters. Environmental Research Letters. 10(11): 114012.

Law E.A, and Wilson K.A. 2015. Providing context for the land-sharing and land-sparing debate. Conservation Letters. 8: 404-413.

Law E.A., Meijaard E, Bryan B.A., Mallawarachchi T, Koh L.P., Wilson K.A. 2015. Better land-use allocation outperforms land sparing and land sharing approaches to conservation in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Biological Conservation. 186: 276-286.