Modelling trade offs between public and private conservation policies

Ascelin Gordon, William Langford, Matt White, James Todd, Lucy Bastin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To reduce global biodiversity loss, there is an urgent need to determine the most efficient allocation of conservation resources. Recently, there has been a growing trend for many governments to supplement public ownership and management of reserves with incentive programs for conservation on private land. This raises important questions, such as the extent to which private land conservation can improve conservation outcomes, and how it should be mixed with more traditional public land conservation. We address these questions, using a general framework for modelling environmental policies and a case study examining the conservation of endangered native grasslands to the west of Melbourne, Australia. Specifically, we examine three policies that involve i) spending all resources on creating public conservation areas; ii) spending all resources on an ongoing incentive program where private landholders are paid to manage vegetation on their property with 5-year contracts; and iii) splitting resources between these two approaches. The performance of each strategy is quantified with a vegetation condition change model that predicts future changes in grassland quality. Of the policies tested, no one policy was always best and policy performance depended on the objectives of those enacting the policy. Although policies to promote conservation on private land are proposed and implemented in many areas, they are rarely evaluated in terms of their ecological consequences. This work demonstrates a general method for evaluating environmental policies and highlights the utility of a model which combines ecological and socioeconomic processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)558-566
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Biological Conservation. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Gordon, Ascelin; Langford, William; White, Matt; Todd, James and Bastin, Lucy (2011). Modelling trade offs between public and private conservation policies. Biological Conservation, 144 (1), pp. 558-566. DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2010.10.011 Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.


  • conservation planning
  • policy modelling
  • grassland
  • private land
  • incentive program
  • market based instruments


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