Usually success in conservation is measured quantitatively, in the number of species protected or the acreage of land preserved. But what about the underlying values and norms that influence how people determine success? Success in conservation, and corridors specifically, is about more than just the numbers.
In their recent paper in Biological Conservation, West et al. use detailed responses from 20 conservation scientists, practitioners, and community representatives in the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa to understand how people think about the role of corridors within the broader context of conservation. They emphasize three ways that participants view nature: as an isolated entity that needs protection from human encroachment, as an embedded part of human society that needs to be better integrated with modern development, or as a symbol of cultural heritage for local residents.
These three views influence the different ways that corridors can be considered successful. If nature is separate from humans and the goal is to maximize biodiversity, then corridors act as barriers to human encroachment and are successful when a maximum amount of land is locked away and highly regulated for biodiversity preservation. However, if corridors are meant to be a trade-off between ecological and human needs, then corridor success is framed more in a vision that preserves ecological functioning while also providing human benefit such as improved quality of life. When nature is part of cultural heritage, then corridors become a larger symbol of the region, and success is achieved when the corridor becomes a destination within the landscape that will benefit future generations.
The overall message is that the definition of success for a corridor is dependent on more than quantitative measures like species counts or area set aside as protected. Corridors can be seen as a planning tool, or a governance process, or a territorialized place. Determining how a community values corridors informs a great deal about whether or not a corridor is successful.