About the Species Conservation Planning Sub-Committee


There is increasing recognition of the urgency of bringing together scientists who research the status of nature and the threats it faces, and those who make decisions and policies that affect the way that it is used. There has been recognition that, for some time, these constituencies have been engaged in a dialogue of the deaf, speaking different languages and in need of help to communicate. Furthermore, conservation experts and the general public may differ markedly in what they consider important in decision-making.

Formal efforts to bring together these communities engaged in conservation include the establishment of evidence-based initiatives (such as www.environmentalevidence.com) and the efforts of some scientific journals to make their contents more immediately useful to practitioners. Both of these initiatives seek to change fundamentally the way that scientists work with others engaged in conservation. As with many fundamental changes they will take time to become commonplace.

Monkey in Costarica

Planning to conserve species

While there are many conservation strategies for ecosystems, landscape and habitats, there is ample evidence that the interests of single species, or small groups of species, are not adequately catered for in area-based strategies and plans. The scale of species needs is great, and accelerating. For example, the IUCN Red List contains nearly 400 species of bird and mammal that are considered to be Critically Endangered with global extinction.

Broadly speaking this implies a 50% chance of extinction within three generations. For these species, especially those which have a high conservation profile, more immediate mechanisms of bringing together science, government agencies and local people are needed if we are to ensure their continued survival, and it is this to this situation that SSC has responded.

A Lilac-breasted roller

SSC’s evolving role and capability for planning species conservation

The Species Programme and SSC are responsible for species conservation within IUCN’s overall interests and mandate for biodiversity conservation.

Since the mid-1980's the Species Survival Commission of IUCN has published more than 60 Action Plans for some of the world’s most charismatic species. These were compiled by many of the Commission’s 120 Specialist Groups that comprise nearly 7,000 species experts from around the world. These Action Plans represent a significant body of knowledge on the species that they cover, some of which are conservation icons and some of which were rarely considered for conservation priority at the time.

The resulting amount of conservation action has varied hugely between plans and this led the Species Survival Commission to develop a new process that would be better able to link science and management. This was completed in 2008 under the name Strategic Planning for Species Conservation.


About the SCPSC

The SCPSC is the means for SSC to build on the analyses of the Red List Authorities and also to contribute to IUCN’s efforts to meet a milestone global challenge: the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Biodiversity Target 12 for 2010-2020 which states by 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained.

The SCPSC planning process

Effective conservation in today’s world has to balance the needs of species with those of people and their interests and objectives. As pressures on the world’s natural resources become ever more apparent and biodiversity conservation is increasingly understood as central to human well-being, it is clear that strong partnerships are required to act decisively for the natural world and for those whose livelihoods depend on it.

The SCPSC planning process is under-pinned by this realism, so that the species plans arising from its process, should, if developed and implemented sensitively, forge and maintain such partnerships, thereby increasing the likelihood that species extinctions will be avoided and landscapes conserved. Recent work amply demonstrates the success of community-based interventions that take local issues into account in their design and implementation.

The SCPSC planning process contains a number of critical aspects:

  • The need for accurate and up-to-date information on the planned species,
  • A process that is participatory and includes all relevant parties who would be affected by, or can contribute to , the conservation outcomes,
  • A shared and precisely defined set of objectives, within a formal framework,
  • Conservation solutions must be based on acknowledging uncertainty, with a rigorous assessment of conservation actions and their consequences including the risk of unintended results,
  • The need to monitor conservation progress, and include adaptive management as a standards element,
  • The need to assign responsibilities for actions, and accountability.

The SCPSC is spending 2011-12 in a phase of collaborative, field-testing its approach under as wide a range of species and situations as possible. Its perspective includes:

  • Ensuring the planning process is flexible to cope with all taxa and situations,
  • As the planning needs of species will always exceed the resources available for this, we must learn from each experience and see how lessons can be generalised and effective plans generated at least cost; in support of this, the SCPSC website will host an active resource site for planning case histories and experiences,
  • The planning process is still evolving and the SCPSC has a dedicated Tools Development Working Group (based in, and using the special skills of, the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group) (link) to explore new methods and emerging technologies,
  • In pursuit of promoting responsible and effective species planning, SSC’s Steering Committee has approved a mechanism by which the SCPSC can endorse species plans; this will be operational in early 2012

The SCPSC will focus its efforts on the network of SSC Specialist Groups, to encourage more to plan for their species conservation, with the hope that many can learn that planning need not be daunting, complex or expensive, and can make a great difference to species status. But, we are keen to assist anyone contemplating species planning.

We hope that the sub-committee will be a resource for Specialist Groups and others, demonstrating to all the benefits of sound species planning, and that we can create or help seize the opportunity to do so.

We welcome contact or queries over any aspect of species planning from Specialist Groups Chairs and others. We are working with the SSC Secretariat to identify any Specialist Groups for which some species planning would seem to be timely.

SCPSC Resources
search for species
  • IUCN Red List Logo
Strategic Planning for Species Conservation: An Overview
  • Strategic Planning for Species Conservation: An Overview
Strategic Planning for Species Conservation: A Handbook
  • Strategic Planning for Species Conservation: A Handbook