Marxan Resources and Training


Download an overview and frequently asked questions about Marxan and PacMARA's capacity-building program here!

Marxan is the most widely used conservation planning software in the world

Marxan was created by researchers at the University of Queensland to provide decision support for a range of conservation planning problems, including the design of new reserve systems, reporting on the performance of existing reserve systems, and developing multiple-use zoning plans for natural resource management.

Marxan is flexible, since can be applied to a wide range of problems such as reserve design and natural resource management in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine systems. It is also efficient and repeatable, as it provides many good solutions to complex problems, providing a number of options and encouraging stakeholder participation. These features provide users with decision support to achieve an efficient allocation of resources across a range of different uses.

The software allows users to:
  • Identify areas that efficiently meet targets for a range of biodiversity features for minimal cost
  • Use the principle of complementarity to select planning units which complement the conservation area network (the whole is more than the sum of its parts)
  • Meet spatial requirements such as compactness of a reserve system
  • Include data on ecological processes, threats, and condition
  • Identify tradeoffs between conservation and socio-economic objectives
  • Generate a number of very good solutions

PacMARA Marxan Training

We have held Introduction to Marxan courses around North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa since 2010. For current course plans, please visit the course page and advise us if you would like to join a course or suggest a venue near you!
To download instructions for installing Marxan and related programs, please click here.

Decision Support Tools (especially Marxan) for Decision Makers workshops have been presented in Toronto in December 2010, UK in July 2011, Chile in August 2011, Washington, DC in October 2012, Antalya, Turkey in November 2012, and Nairobi, Kenya in May 2013. Please visit the workshop page to look for current events and/or advise us of a suitable venue near you.

Our Train the Trainers course in Ottawa certified the first five Marxan trainers in North America in July 2010. In December 2011 we held the second Train the Trainers course where five new Marxan instructors were trained.

Intermediate Marxan and Marxan with Zones training is currently being developed. Please let us know if you are interested in this course-to-be.

Please tell us when and where you would like to be trained by emailing us at hcoleman (at) or nserra (at)

The Big Picture of How Marxan fits into Systematic Conservation Planning
For more overview information, please see our Marxan for Managers page at Conservation Planning Resources and Tools

Applied Marxan Talks from Introduction to Marxan Courses

Redlands, CA - November 2014:

Seoul, Korea - September 2014:

Nairobi, Kenya - May 2013:

Antalya, Turkey - November 2012:

Washington, DC - October 2012:

San Francisco, CA and Monterey, CA - July 2012:

Zaragoza, Spain and New York, NY - April 2012:

Huinay, Puerto Montt, and Santiago, Chile - August/September 2011:

Honolulu, HI - August 2011:

Canterbury, UK - July 2011:

Halifax, NS - June 2011:

Victoria, BC - May 2011:

Toronto, ON - December 2010:

Vancouver, BC - November 2010:

Edmonton, AB - October 2010:

Berkeley, CA - September 2010:

Ottawa, ON - July 2010:

Resources Provided by PacMARA

We have worked closely with The Ecology Centre at the University of Queensland, Australia and with Marxan users worldwide to develop these documents to support better understanding of use of Marxan Software.

This wiki is not the official version of these documents, but is an effort to facilitate the further improvement of both documents by the community of Marxan users. If you would like to register as an editor of these documents contact us at . In your email please outline your Marxan experience and provide us with your contact information.

Or, if you prefer anonymity, log-in as a user (upper right side of this page) and you can post comments to one of the discussion forums linked to the interactive pages below.

Go to the Marxan User Manual interactive page

Go to the Marxan Good Practices Handbook interactive page

2008 Marxan User Manual v2 pdf
2000 Marxan User Manual v1 pdf

2008 Marxan User Manual in Spanish pdf

2008 Marxan with Zones User Manual pdf

2011 Zonae Cogito User Manual pdf *NEW*
2010 Zonae Cogito User Manual pdf

Go to the Marxan User Wiki Discussion Site to discuss problems or lessons learned with Marxan, Marxan with Zones, or Zonae Cogito

2013 Marxan Good Practices Handbook v2 pdf*NEW*
2010 Marxan Good Practices Handbook v2 pdf
2008 Marxan Good Practices Handbook v1 pdf

2013 Marxan Good Practices Handbook in Spanish pdf*NEW*
2008 Marxan Good Practices Handbook in Spanish pdf

Go to the Marxan Handbook Wiki Discussion Site to suggest and discuss changes to the handbook

Proceedings from 2009 PacMARA/BCMCA Marxan Good Practices Workshop

Proceedings from 2007 PacMARA Marxan Workshop

Go to the Frequently asked questions about Marxan page

Tools to support Marxan use

ArcMarxan toolbox for ArcGIS v.10.2 (and above), and QMarxan toolboxes for QGIS 2.14 (and above)- **NEW** Marxan plugins developed by Trevor Wiens from Apropos

With these tools you can generate basic Marxan input files and visualize results. For more information visit Apropos website here.

The CLUZ tools - QGIS plug-in for Marxan

CLUZ (Conservation Land-Use? Zoning software) is a QGIS is an experimental plug-in that allows users to design protected area networks and other conservation landscapes and seascapes. It can be used for on-screen planning and also acts as a link for the Marxan conservation planning software. It was developed by Bob Smith.
CLUZ is available for download through the QGIS Plugins Manager. CLUZ has been tested on QGIS v2.6 and above. For more information visit Bob Smith's Website here.

Download ArcGIS geoprocessing tools (Note that these tools were created for ArcGIS 9.3)

Scripts developed by David Tellier of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources help with the following tasks:
  • convert Marxan’s input/output text files into tables in an existing ArcGIS personal or file geodatabase;
  • generate hexagons; and
  • generate planning unit files from polygon feature classes.
Use and help test these new scripts here!

Download an ArcGIS 10 boundary file maker from ABPmer

See under "Software Tools" (Note that you will need to fill out a request form before you can download the tool)

More Information on Marxan

University of Queensland Marxan page (includes many examples of peer-reviewed Marxan literature)

Download Marxan and more for free!

Sign up for the Marxan listserve

Wikipedia Marxan page

Selection of Papers on Marxan

Linke, S., Watts, M., Steward, R., Possingham, P. 2011. Using multivariate analysis to deliver conservation planning products that align with practitioner needs. Ecography 34:203 - 207. DOI:10.1111/j.1600-0587.2010.06351.x.

Schneider, R.R., Hauer, G., Farr. D., Adamowicz, W.L., Boutin, S. 2011. Achieving Conservation when Opportunity Costs Are High: Optimizing Reserve Design in Alberta's Oil Sands Region. PLoS ONE 6(8): e23254.

Esselman, P.C., Allan, J.D. 2011. Application of species distribution models and conservation planning software to the design of a reserve network for the riverine fishes of northeastern Mesoamerica. Freshwater Biology 56: 71–88.

Heiner, M., Higgins, J., Li, X., Baker, B. 2011. Identifying freshwater conservation priorities in the Upper Yangtze River Basin. Freshwater Biology 56: 89-105.

Hermoso, V., Linke, S., Prenda, J., Possingham, H.P. 2011. Addressing longitudinal connectivity in the systematic conservation planning of fresh waters. Freshwater Biology 5: 57–70.

Nel, J.L., Reyers, B., Roux, D.J., Dean Impson, N., Cowling, R. 2011. Designing a conservation area network that supports the representation and persistence of freshwater biodiversity. Freshwater Biology 5: 106–124.

Rivers-Moore?, N.A., Goodman, P.S., Nel, J.L. 2011. Scale-based freshwater conservation planning: towards protecting freshwater biodiversity in KwaZulu-Natal?, South Africa. Freshwater Biology 56: 125–141.

Ban, N.C., Klein, C.J. 2009. Spatial socioeconomic data as a cost in systematic marine conservation planning. Conservation Letters 2: 206–215.

Ban, N.C., Vincent, A.C.J. 2009. Beyond Marine Reserves: Exploring the Approach of Selecting Areas where Fishing Is Permitted, Rather than Prohibited. PLoS ONE 4: e6258.

Green, A., Smith, S.E., Lipsett-Moore?, G., et al. 2009. Designing a resilient network of marine protected areas for Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea. Oryx 43: 488-498. DOI:10.1017/S0030605309990342.

Klein, C.J., Steinback, C., Watts, M., Scholz, A.J., Possingham, H.P. 2009. Spatial marine zoning for fisheries and conservation. Front Ecol Environ. DOI:10.1890/090047.

Klein, C. Wilson, K., Watts, M., et al. 2009. Incorporating ecological and evolutionary processes into continental-scale conservation planning. Ecological Applications 19: 206-217.

Smith, R.J., Eastwood, P.D., Ota, Y., Rogers, S.I. 2009. Developing best practice for using Marxan to locate Marine Protected Areas in European waters. ICES Journal of Marine Science 66: 188–194.

Watts, M.E., Ball, I.R., Stewart, R.S., Klein, C.J., Wilson, K., Steinback, C., Lourival, R., Kircher, L., Possingham, H.P. 2009. Marxan with Zones: Software for optimal conservation based land- and sea-use zoning. Environmental Modelling & Software 24: 1513-1521.

Gah, E., Witten, E., Korpach, A., Skelton, J., Wilson, J.M. 2008. Northwest Territories Protected Areas Strategy Technical Report #1: Methods For Identifying Core Representative Areas In The Northwest Territories. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Government of the Northwest Territories. 68 pages.

Klein, C.J., Steinback, C., Scholz, A.J., Possingham, H.P. 2008. Effectiveness of marine reserve networks in representing biodiversity and minimizing impact to fishermen: a comparison of two approaches used in California. Conservation Letters 1: 44–51. DOI:10.1111/j.1755-263X.2008.00005.x.

Smith, R.J., Easton, J., Nhancale, B.A. 2008. Designing a transfrontier conservation landscape for the Maputaland centre of endemism using biodiversity, economic and threat data. Biological Conservation 141: 2127-2138. DOI:10.1016/j.biocon.2008.06.010.

Ardron, J.A. 2007. Modelling Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in British Columbia. American Fisheries Society Symposium 49: 587-599.

Klein, C. Carwardine, J., Wilson, K., Watts, M., Possingham, H. 2007. Spatial Prioritization Approaches for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Australia Considering Conservation Costs, Ecological & Evolutionary Processes, and Large-Intact Areas. Report to the Department of Environment and Water.

Possingham, H.P., Wilson, K.A., Andelman, S.J., Vynne, C.H. 2006. Protected Areas: Goals, Limitations, and Design. In: Martha J. Groom, M.J., Meffe, G.K., Carroll, R.C. (Eds.) Principles of Conservation Biology 14: 507-549.

Ardron, J. 2005. MPA Selection Methodologies Observations and Lessons Learned from the West Coast of Canada. First International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC1), Australia.

Fernandes, L., Day, J., Lewis, A., et al. 2005. Establishing Representative No-Take? Areas in the Great Barrier Reef: Large-Scale? Implementation of Theory on Marine Protected Areas. Conservation Biology 19: 1733–1744. DOI:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2005.00302.x.

Fischer, D.T., Church, R.L. 2005. The SITES reserve selection system: A critical review. Environmental Modeling and Assessment 10: 215-228. DOI:10.1007/s10666-005-9005-7.

Rondinini, C., Stuart, S., Boitanu, L. 2005. Habitat Suitability Models and the Shortfall in Conservation Planning for African Vertebrates. Conservation Biology 19: 1488-1497. DOI:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2005.00204.x.

Stewart, R., Possingham, H. 2005. Efficiency, costs and trade-offs in marine reserve system design. Environmental Modeling and Assessment 10: 203-213. DOI:10.1007/s10666-005-9001-y.

Airame, S., Dugan, J.E., Lafferty, K.D., Leslie, H., McArdle, D.A., Warner, R.R. 2003. Applying ecological criteria to marine reserve design: A case study from the California Channel Islands. Ecological Applications 13: S170–S184.

References about the influence of planning unit size on the conservation planning outputs.

Bruno A. Nhancale, B.A. and Robert J. Smith, R.J. 2011. The influence of planning unit characteristics on the efficiency and spatial pattern of systematic conservation planning assessments. Biology & Conservation 20 (8): 1821-1835. DOI: 10.1007/s10531-011-0063-7.

Regan, H.M., Ensbey, M.J., Burgman, M., 2009. Conservation Prioritization and Uncertainty in Planning Inputs, in Moilanen, A., Wilson, K.A., Possingham, H.P. (Eds.), Spatial Conservation Prioritization. New York, Oxford University Press.

Pressey, R.L., Possingham, H.P., Logan, V.S., Day, J.R., Williams, P.H., 1999. Effects of data characteristics on the results of reserve selection algorithms. Journal of Biogeography 26, 179–191. DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2699.1999.00258.x.

Pressey, R.L., Bedward M., 1991. Mapping the environment at different scales: benefits and costs for nature conservation, in: C.R. Margules, Austin M.P. (Eds.), Nature Conservation: Cost Effective Biological Surveys and Data Analysis. CSIRO, Melbourne.

Pressey, R.L., Logan, V.S., 1998. Size of selection units for future reserves and actual vs targeted representation of features: western New South Wales its influence on a case study in New South Wales. Biological Conservation 85, 305-309. DOI:10.1016/S0006-3207(97)00146-8.

Pressey, R.L., Logan, V.S., 1994. Levels of geographical subdivision and its effects on assessments of reserve coverage: a review of regional studies. Conservation Biology 8, 1037-1046. DOI: 10.1046/j.1523-1739.1994.08041037.x.

Marxan Papers in Spanish

Alonso, D., Segura-Quintero, C., Torres, C., Roze-Garzon, D.M., Espriella, J.L., Bolanos, J.A., Lopez, A.C. 2010. Áreas Significativas para la Biodiversidad. Pp 393-423. En: INVEMAR (Eds.). 2010. Biodiversidad del Margen Continental del Caribe colombiano. Serie de Publicaciones Especiales, Invemar No. 20. 4588p.

INVEMAR, TNC, CI, UAESPNN. 2009. Informe Tecnico: Planificacion ecorregional para la conservacion in situ de la biodiversidad marina y costera en el Caribe y Pacifico continental colombiano. Alonso, D., Ramirez, L. F., Segura- Quintero, C., Castillo-Torres?, P., Diaz, J.M., Walschburger, T. y N. Arango. Serie de Documentos Generales No. 41. Santa Marta. 106p + Anexos.

Alnoso, D., Ramirez, L., Segura-Quintero, C., Castillo-Torres, P., Diaz, J.M., Walschburger, T. 2008. Prioridades de conservación para la biodiversidad in situ marina y costera de la plataforma continental del Caribe y Pacífico colombiano. Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras INVEMAR, Unidad Administrativa Especial del Sistema de Parques Nacionales Naturales-UAESPNN y The Nature Conservancy -TNC. Santa Marta, Colombia, 20 p. ISBN 978-958-8448-01-5.

Alonso, D., Segura-Quintero, C., Castillo-Torres, P., Gerhartz-Muro, J. 2008. Avances en el diseño de una red de áreas marinas protegidas: Estrategia de conservación para el norte del Caribe continental colombiano. Boletín de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras. 37(1) 129-156. ISSN 0122-9761.

Gutierrez-Moreno?, C., Alonso, D. Segura-Quintero?, C. 2008. Diseño de un área marina protegida para bahía Portete – La Guajira, Caribe colombiano. Boletín de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras. 37(2) 189-212. ISSN 0122-9761.

Theses, Technical, Government, and NGO Reports Using Marxan

Olson, L.T. 2010. The Influence of Analysis Design on Systematic Conservation Planning. Ph.D. Dissertation. high res low res

Best Practices for Marine Spatial Planning: Advice from a workshop. 2009. TNC Global Marine Team.

Sakinan, S. 2008. Selection of the priority areas on the west coast of Mersin using GIS to assess a marine conservation planning. M.Sc. Thesis.

Balancing conservation and commercial fishing: Methods of incorporating socioeconomic impacts in the design of marine protected areas in California. 2008. Bren School, UC Santa Barbara.

Mpumalanga Biodiversity Conservation Plan Handbook. 2007. Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency.

Conservation Planning in a Tropical Wilderness: Opportunities and Threats in the Guianan Ecoregion Complex. 2007. USDA Forest Service Proceedings.

Munro, K.G. 2006. Evaluating Marxan as a terrestrial conservation planning tool. M.A. Thesis.

Loos, S.A. 2006. Exploration of Marxan for utility in marine protected area zoning. M.Sc. Thesis.

Marine Ecosystem Conservation for New England and Maritime Canada: A Science-Based Approach to the Identification of Priority Areas for Conservation. 2006. WWF.

Okanagan Ecoregional Assessment. 2006. Nature Conservancy.
For more information and maps, visit or
Summary of how the results of the OEA can be used in real world planning (e.g., land purchase).

Marine Protected Areas Along California’s Central Coast: A Multicriteria Analysis of Network Design. 2006. Bren School, UC Santa Barbara.

Conservation Utility Analysis Review Meeting: Materials and Background. 2005. Living Oceans Society.

Automated Integration of Aquatic and Terrestrial Conservation Areas in Conservation Planning: A New Method. 2005. TNC.

Conservation Area Design for the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area. 2004. TNC.

Marine Ecosystem Spatial Analysis. 2003. BC Coast Information Team.

Conservation area design for the coastal forest and mountains of southeast Alaska and British Columbia. 2003. TNC.

Use of Spatial Analysis and GIS techniques to Re-Zone the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. 2003. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Other Decision Support Resources

Go to Conservation Planning Resources and Tools

Back to the PacMARA wiki homepage

Menu [toggle]