Conservation Planning Resources and Tools

Welcome to PacMARA and contributors’ collection of decision support resources

Go to the Marxan Resources and Training for Marxan-specific information


Decision Guide: Selecting decision support tools for marine spatial planning

The Center for Ocean Solutions (COS) and PacMARA have just released our guide to a selection of decision support tools!
This guide is intended to assist practitioners in selecting appropriate decision support tools (DSTs) that can help them conduct marine spatial planning in their own jurisdictions.
DSTs that use interactive software including maps, models, communication modules, and additional components can help solve problems that are too complex and multi-faceted to solve using human intuition or conventional approaches alone. Used properly, planning tools can:
  • Save time, energy, and resources
  • Guide users through difficult steps of decisionmaking processes so they can quickly move from data analysis to final decisions
  • Repeat analyses with relative ease and reduce redundancy by leveraging the work of others
  • Reduce requirements for human expertise;
  • Help users explore a wider range of alternatives
  • Document decisions about inputs and parameters
  • Increase the understanding of planning requirements and limitations for multiple sectors in the planning process.
Download it here *NEW*

Marxan for Managers Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya in May 2013


Marxan for Managers Workshop in Washington, DC in October 2012


Decision Support Tools for Systematic Conservation Planning - part 1 by Jeff Ardron (PacMARA)
  • Key planning approaches - how they fit together
  • Planning with Decision Support Tools - Marxan / Marxan with Zones
Decision Support Tools for Systematic Conservation Planning - part 2 by Jeff Ardron
  • Setting Goals, Objectives, Targets
  • Defining Costs
Decision Support Tools for Systematic Conservation Planning - part 3 by Jeff Ardron
  • Stakeholder Relations
  • Planning Lessons Learned at Home and Abroad

Marxan versus Tamarin Model Solutions in the Southern Bahia Brazil by Miroslav Honzak (Conservation International)

Using Marxan to Compare Scenarios of Rural Development and Planning in the Democratic Republic of Congo by David Williams (African Wildlife Foundation)

South Africa Offshore Marine Protected Area Project by Hedley Grantham (Conservation International)

Decision Support Tools for Decision-makers Workshops in Huinay, Puerto Montt, and Santiago, Chile in August/September 2011


Decision Support Tools for Systematic Conservation Planning - part 1 by Jeff Ardron (PacMARA and MCBI)
  • Systematic Marine and Land use Planning
  • Planning with Decision Support Tools - Marxan / Marxan with Zones
Decision Support Tools for Systematic Conservation Planning - part 2 by Jeff Ardron
  • Multi-criteria Decision-making
  • Setting Goals, Objectives, Targets
Planificacion espacial marina costera by Gunter Forsterra and Vreni Haussermann (Huinay Scientific Field Station and Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso)

Marxan for Managers (and other Decision Support Tools) Workshop in Canterbury, UK on 4 July 2011


Decision Support Tools for Systematic Conservation Planning - part 1 by Jeff Ardron (PacMARA and MCBI)
  • Key planning approaches - how they fit together
  • Planning with Decision Support Tools - Marxan / Marxan with Zones
Decision Support Tools for Systematic Conservation Planning - part 2 by Jeff Ardron
  • Setting Goals, Objectives, Targets
  • Defining Costs
Systematic conservation planning in Maputaland by Bruno Nhancale and Bob Smith (DICE)

Conservation Planning in Alberta by Dan Farr (University of Alberta)

Landscape and NHS planning by Danijela Puric-Mladenovic? (University of Toronto and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources)

IMCC Conference Decision Support Tool Updates and Good Practices Workshop


For more information about this conference please visit IMCC Conference

Marxan for Managers (and other Decision Support Tools) Workshop in Victoria on 12 May 2011


Decision Support Tools for Systematic Conservation Planning - part 1 by Jeff Ardron (PacMARA and MCBI)
  • Key planning approaches -how they fit together
  • Planning with Decision Support Tools -Marxan / Marxan with Zones
Decision Support Tools for Systematic Conservation Planning - part 2 by Jeff Ardron
  • Setting Goals, Objectives, Targets
  • Defining Costs
NMCA Program Case Study in Gwaii Haanas by Nicholas Irving and Lindsay McBlane? (Parks Canada)

BCMCA Case Study by Dave Nicolson (BCMCA and Westland Resource Group)

Marine InVEST: Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs by CK Kim (Natural Capital Project)

"Decision Support Tools for Conservation Planning in Settled Landscapes" Workshop in Toronto on 15 December 2010


Natural Heritage of Southern Ontario’s Settled Landscapes by John Riley (Nature Conservancy of Canada) - Please email John for a copy

Land Use Planning in a Living Landscape by Gord Miller (Environmental Commissioner of Ontario)

The Need for Systematic Conservation Planning as a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy by David Pearson (Ontario Panel on Climate Change Adaptation)

Planning Approaches Internationally and at Home and How These Relate to Settled Landscapes System Planning by Danijela Puric-Mladenovic? (Ministry of Natural Resources and University of Toronto)

Blurring the Line Between Urban and Rural by Andy Kenney (University of Toronto)

Key Planning Approaches - How They Fit Together; Planning Tools; Marxan / Marxan with Zones by Jeff Ardron (PacMARA)

"Decision Support for Marine Protected Areas Network Planning in Canada" Workshop in Ottawa on 22-23 June 2010


Day 1 by Jeff Ardron (PacMARA and MCBI)
  • Context of emerging conservation issues
  • Key planning approaches and how they fit together (also see Jeff's article on this topic in MEAM)
  • Planning approaches internationally and how these relate to Canada’s eight-step approach to MPA network planning
  • Overview of planning tools
  • Marxan and Marxan with Zones - how it works, what it does, strengths and limitations

Day 2 by Jeff Ardron
  • Review of Day 1
  • Examples of marine conservation stakeholder processes
  • Managing for uncertainty

NMCA Program Case Study by Lindsay McBlane? (Parks Canada)

MPA Network Planning Case Study by Anna Serdynska (DFO Maritimes)

Selected Relevant Literature

Adaptive Change

Gregr, E.J., Ahrens A.L, Perry, I.R. 2012. Reconciling classifications of ecologically and biologically significant areas in the world’s oceans. Marine Policy 36: 716-726.

Grantham, H.S. Bode, M., McDonald-Madden?, E., Game, E.T., Knight, A.T., Possingham, H.P. 2009. Effective conservation planning requires learning and adaptation Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. DOI:10.1890/080151.

Heller, N.E., Zavaleta, E.S. 2009. Biodiversity management in the face of climate change: A review of 22 years of recommendations Biological Conservation 142: 14–32. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2008.10.006.

Obura, D.O.,Grimsdith, G. 2009. Resilience Assessment of coral reefs – Assessment protocol for coral reefs, focusing on coral bleaching and thermal stress. IUCN working group on Climate Change and Coral Reefs. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. 70 pages.

Olson, L.T., Lindsay, K.F. 2009. Here today, gone tomorrow? Targeting conservation investment in the face of climate change. Journal of Geography and Regional Planning 2: 20-29.

Fuller, T., Morton, D.P., Sarkar, S. 2008. Incorporating uncertainty about species’ potential distributions under climate change into the selection of conservation areas with a case study from the Arctic Coastal Plain of Alaska. Biological Conservation 141: 1547–1559. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2008.03.021.

Game, E.T., McDonald-Madden, E., Puotinen, M.L., Possingham, H.P. 2008. Should We Protect the Strong or the Weak? Risk, Resilience, and the Selection of Marine Protected Areas. Conservation Biology 22: 1619–1629.

Game, E.T., Watts, M.E., Wooldridge, S., Possingham, H.P. 2008. Planning For Persistence In Marine Reserves: A Question Of Catastrophic Importance. Ecological Applications 18: 670–680.

Assessing and managing resilience in social-ecological systems: A practitioners workbook. 2007. Resilience Alliance.

Assessing and managing resilience in social-ecological systems: Volume 2 supplementary notes to the practitioners workbook. 2007. Resilience Alliance.

Assessing resilience in social-ecological systems: A workbook for scientists. 2007. Resilience Alliance.

Hannah, L., Midgley, G., Andelman, S., Araujo, M., Hughes, G., Martinez-Meyer?, E., Pearson, R., Williams, P. 2007. Protected area needs in a changing climate. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5: 131–138. DOI: 10.1890/1540-9295(2007)5[131:PANIAC]2.0.CO;2.

Pressey, R.L., Cabeza, M., Watts, M.E., Cowling, R.M., Wilson, K.A. 2007. Conservation planning in a changing world. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 22: 583-592. DOI:10.1016/j.tree.2007.10.001.

Walters, C.J. 2007. Is Adaptive Management Helping to Solve Fisheries Problems? AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment 36: 304–307. DOI: 10.1579/0044-7447(2007)36304:IAMHTS2.0.CO;2.

Gregory, R., Ohlson, D., Arvai, J. 2006. Deconstructing adaptive management: criteria for Applications to environmental management. Ecological Applications, 16: 2411–2425. DOI: 10.1890/1051-0761(2006)0162411:DAMCFA2.0.CO;2.

Walters, C.J., Holling, C.S. 1990. Large-Scale? Management Experiments and Learning by Doing. Ecology 71: 2060-2068. DOI: 10.2307/1938620.

Walters, C.J., Hilborn, R. 1978. Ecological optimization and adaptive management. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 9:157-188. DOI: 10.1146/

Ecosystem-based Management

Curtin, R., Prellezo, R. 2010. Understanding marine ecosystem based management: A literature review. Marine Policy 34: 821–830. DOI:10.1016/j.marpol.2010.01.003.

Levin, P.S., Fogarty, M.J., Murawski, S.A., Fluharty, D. 2009. Integrated Ecosystem Assessments: Developing the Scientific Basis for Ecosystem-Based Management of the Ocean. PLoS Biology 7: 23-28.

Ocean and Coastal Ecosystem-Based Management: Implementation Handbook. 2009. Environmental Law Institute, Washington, D.C.
Condensed outline.

Murawski, S.A. 2007. Ten myths concerning ecosystem approaches to marine resource management. Marine Policy 31: 681–690. DOI:10.1016/j.marpol.2007.03.011.

Gjerde, K.M. 2006. The Ecosystem Approach: Demystifying the Concept and its Application in the Marine Environment. The World Conservation Union (IUCN): Information Paper. 16 pages.

McLeod, K.L., Lubchenco, J., Palumbi, S.R., Rosenberg, A.A. 2005. Scientific Consensus Statement on Marine Ecosystem-Based Management.

Myers, R.A. and Worm, B. 2003. Rapid worldwide depletion of predatory fish communities. Nature 423: 280-283. DOI:10.1038/nature01610.

Myers, R.A., et al. 1995. Population dynamics of exploited fish stocks at low population levels. Science 269: 1106-1108. DOI:10.1126/science.269.5227.1106.

Integrated Management

Ban, N.C., Alidina, H.M., Ardron, J.A. 2010. Cumulative impact mapping: Advances, relevance and limitations to marine management and conservation, using Canada’s Pacific waters as a case study. Marine Policy 34: 876-886. DOI:10.1016/j.marpol.2010.01.010.

Halpern, B.S., Lester, S.E., McLeod?, K.L. 2010. Marine Reserves Special Feature: Placing marine protected areas onto the ecosystem-based management seascape. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. DOI:10.1073/pnas.0908503107.

Baltic Sea Scorecard. 2009. WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme. 15 pages.

Bin, C. Hao, H. Weiwei, Y., Senlin, Z., Jinkeng, W., Jinlong, J. 2009. Marine biodiversity conservation based on integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) - A case study in Quanzhou Bay, Fujian, China. Ocean & Coastal Management 52: 612–619. DOI:10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2009.10.006.

Parks Canada. 2008. Skills for working together - workshop on planning and getting organized: Participants’ Manual.

Parks Canada. 2007. Skills for working together: Participants’ Workbook.

McCulloch, C.S. 2006. Transparency: aid or obstacle to effective defence of vulnerable environments from reservoir construction? Dam decisions and democracy in North East England. Area 38: 24-33.

Cicin-Saina?, B., Belfiore, S. 2005. Linking marine protected areas to integrated coastal and ocean management: A review of theory and practice. Ocean & Coastal Management 48: 847–868. DOI:10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2006.01.001.

Klinger, T. 2004. International ICZM: in search of successful outcomes. Ocean & Coastal Management 47: 195–196. DOI:10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2004.04.003.

Kessler, B.L. 2003. Marine Protected Area (MPA) Process Review: Case Studies of Five MPA Establishment Processes. National Marine Protected Areas Center, NOAA Coastal Services Center.

Gezon, L. 1998. Institutional Structure and the Effectiveness of Integrated Conservation and Development Projects: Case Study from Madagascar. Human Organization 56: 462-470.

Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning

Ardron, J., Ban, N., Field, J., Game, E., Pressey, R., Sørensen, T., Vestergaard, O. 2010. Adaptive Marine Spatial Planning Paper 1: context and future directions. Technical report, United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, Kenya. 50 pages. (will be available soon)

Foley, M.M., Halpern, B.S., Micheli, F. et al. 2010. Guiding ecological principles for marine spatial planning. Marine Policy 34: 955-966. DOI:10.1016/j.marpol.2010.02.001.

Lamp, J., Stoltz, M., Wagner, K., Liebermann, E. 2010. Maritime Spatial Planning in the Baltic Sea - A Cartoon. WWF Germany Coastal & Marine Division.

Norse, E., 2010. Ecosystem-based spatial planning and management of marine fisheries: Why and how? Bulletin of Marine Science 86: 179-195. Ingentaconnect.

Ardron, J.A. 2009. Three initial OSPAR tests of ecological coherence: heuristics in a data-limited situation. ICES Journal of Marine Science 65: 1527-1533.

Ehler, B., Douvere, F. 2009. Marine Spatial Planning: A Step-by-Step Approach toward Ecosystem-based Management. Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Manual and Guides 53: ICAM Dossier No. 6.

The Nature Conservancy. 2009. Best Practices for Marine Spatial Planning. Advice from a workshop organized by The Nature Conservancy’s Global Marine Team.

Roadmap for Maritime Spatial Planning: Achieving Common Principles in the EU. 2008. Commission of the European Communities. 12 pages.

Gaydos, J.K., Dierauf, L., Kirby, G., Brosnan, D., Gilardi, K., Davis, G.E. 2008. Top 10 Principles for Designing Healthy Coastal Ecosystems Like the Salish Sea. EcoHealth 5: 460–471.

Halpern et al. 2008. A Global Map of Human Impact on Marine Ecosystems. Science 319: 948-952. DOI:10.1126/science.1149345.

Summary of MSP Steps (compiled by PacMARA).

Multi-criteria Considerations

Dichmont, C.M., Pascoe, S., Kompas, T., Punt, A.E., Deng, R. 2010. On implementing maximum economic yield in commercial fisheries. PNAS 107: 16-21.

Stewart, T.J., Joubert, A., Janssen, R. 2010. MCDA Framework for Fishing Rights Allocation in South Africa. Group Decis Negot 19: 247–265. DOI:10.1007/s10726-009-9159-9.

Moffett, A., Dyer, J.S., Sarkar, S. 2006. Integrating biodiversity representation with multiple criteria in North-Central? Namibia using non-dominated alternatives and a modified analytic hierarchy process. Biological Conservation 129: 181-191. 10.1016/j.biocon.2005.10.033.

Moffett, A., Sarkar, S. 2006. Incorporating multiple criteria into the design of conservation area networks: a minireview with recommendations. Diversity and Distributions 12: 125–137. DOI:10.1111/j.1366-9516.2005.00202.x.

Systematic Conservation Planning

More coming soon...

Meir, E., Andelman, S., Possingham, H.P. 2004. Does conservation planning matter in a dynamic an uncertain world? Ecology Letters 7: 615-622. DOI:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2004.00624.x.

Stewart, R.R., Noyce, T., Possingham, H.P. 2003. Opportunity cost of ad hoc marine reserve design decisions: An example from South Australia. Marine Ecology Progress Series 253: 25-38. DOI:10.3354/meps253025.

Margules, C.R., Pressey, R.L. 2000. Systematic conservation planning. Nature 405: 243-253.



For Marxan references, see the PacMARA Marxan Resources and Training wikipage.


Sarkar, S., Pressey, R.L., Faith, D.P., et al. 2006. Biodiversity Conservation Planning Tools: Present Status and Challenges for the Future. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 31: 123–59. DOI:10.1146/

Evans, S.J.M., Jamieson, G., Ardron, J., Patterson, M., Jessen, S. 2004. Evaluation of site selection methodologies for use in marine protected area network design. Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat Research Document.

Gonzales, E.K., Arcese, P., Schultz, R., Bunnel, F. 2003. Strategic reserve design in the Central Coast of British Columbia: Integrating ecological and industrial goals. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 33: 2129-2140. DOI:10.1139/X03-133.

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