One of the most important tools we use is the Geographical Information System (GIS). It allows us to record and plot features and areas within the landscape, mapping the current state of the environment.
By mapping the features of our reserve we can better plan our conservation management. Important questions such as "Where's the density of an invasive weed and how does it relate to specific soil types?" or "What's the likelihood that my access road will be flooded and where?” can be easily answered.
From here, our plans for managing the landscape are developed through a formal process based on the Open Standard for the Practice of Conservation. This is a process developed from the pooled experiences of conservation organisations around the world.
The following steps are involved:
- Set the national strategy and identify priority landscapes.
- Identify individual properties and assess their conservation values and long-term management needs and costs.
- Conceptualise what will be achieved where we're working and the issues we face.
- Plan both the actions and monitoring.
- Purchase the land or establish a partnership with the land owner.
- Implement both the actions and monitoring.
- Analyse the data to evaluate the effectiveness of the actions. Use the results to adapt the project to maximise its impact.
- Capture and share the results with key external and internal audiences to promote learning, and inform donors of progress.
Keeping track of it all
This process is underpinned by Open Source Software called Miradi (developed by the Conservation Measures Partnership [CMP] and Benetech) that supports the Open Standard for the Practice of Conservation. All property information is recorded and managed within the software.
The planning process we use embodies the principles of 'adaptive management'. We prepare plans based on the best-available knowledge at the time, then regularly update them based on the results of implementation.
By monitoring our results against our expectations, we learn more about what works and what doesn't, and can progressively refine our plans and actions. Storing this knowledge in Miradi software allows us to 'close the loop' on the adaptive management cycle.