Adaptation pathways for conservation law and policy

Prof Jan McDonald1,2, Dr Philippa McCormack1,2, Dr  Alistair Hobday3,2, Prof  David Farrier4, Dr Michael Dunlop3, Ms  Louise  Gilfedder7, Ms Jess Feehely6, Dr April Reside6

1School of Law, University Of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 2Centre for Marine Socioecology, University of Tasmania, Australia, 3CSIRO , , Australia, 4University of Wollongong, , , 5University of Queensland, , , 6Environmental Defenders Office (Tas), , Australia, 7School of Land and Food, University of Tasmania, , Australia

Globally, biodiversity is under increasing pressure from human activities despite protective measures in conservation laws. Climate change will exacerbate those pressures and the effects of habitat loss and species decline. Current approaches to conservation law in most countries focus on establishing protected areas and limiting activities outside reserves that might affect priority species, habitats, and ecological communities. These measures have had mixed success depending on scale and implementation, but are likely to perform poorly under conditions of future change. To prepare for the future, we consider how conservation law and policy needs to anticipate and manage for future change; widen its scope beyond species and ecological communities that are currently threatened; and support adaptive management of priority areas and species. Using Australian conservation law as a case study, we outline three possible routes by which this shift could occur. The first involves enhancing the adaptiveness of conservation law, the second expands the focus of conservation law from protected areas and listed species to include ecosystems and ecosystem services, while the third attempts to do both simultaneously. We examine the legal mechanisms needed to implement each route, examples of their use in practice, and barriers that must be overcome for successful implementation.


Jan McDonald is Professor of Environmental Law at the University of Tasmania, Australia, a member of the  Australian Panel of Experts on Environmental Law, and a past President of the National Environmental Law Association. She specialises in law and policy options to manage the impacts of climate change, in particular adaptation and the regulation of climate intervention technologies.

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