Designing coastal conservation to deliver ecosystem and human well-being benefits
Conservation scientists increasingly recognize that incorporating human values into conservation planning increases the chances for success by garnering broader project acceptance. However, methods for defining quantitative targets for the spatial representation of human well-being priorities are less developed. In this study we employ an approach for identifying regionally important human values and establishing specific spatial targets for their representation based on stakeholder outreach. Our primary objective was to develop a spatially-explicit conservation plan that identifies the most efficient locations for conservation actions to meet ecological goals while sustaining or enhancing human well-being values within the coastal and nearshore areas of the western Lake Erie basin (WLEB). We conducted an optimization analysis using 26 features representing ecological and human well-being priorities (13 of each), and included seven cost layers. The influence that including human well-being had on project results was tested by running five scenarios and setting targets for human well-being at different levels in each scenario. The most important areas for conservation to achieve multiple goals are clustered along the coast, reflecting a concentration of existing or potentially restorable coastal wetlands, coastal landbird stopover habitat and terrestrial biodiversity, as well as important recreational activities. Inland important areas tended to cluster around trails and high quality inland landbird stopover habitat. Most concentrated areas of importance also are centered on lands that are already conserved, reflecting the lower costs and higher benefits of enlarging these conserved areas rather than conserving isolated, dispersed areas. Including human well-being features in the analysis only influenced the solution at the highest target levels.