geographic information science, GIS, conservation, leakage, land change modeling, geographic information systems, conservation of natural resources


Environmental Sciences | Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


Some humans spend a tremendous amount of effort to change landscapes from a “natural” state to a “developed” state for a variety of desirable economic uses, such as urban, agriculture, transportation, and mining. Others spend a tremendous amount of effort to prevent such development in order to conserve the landscapes for a variety of important environmental uses, such as biodiversity maintenance, carbon storage, water filtration, and landslide prevention. It would be efficient in theory if a society were to focus its development efforts at locations that give the largest economic utility per area developed, and to focus its conservation efforts at locations that give the largest environmental utility per area conserved. However this is not necessarily the strategy of some important conservation policies. Some policy approaches, such as those proposed by the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and the subsequent Bali Roadmap, call for conservation on land that is under imminent threat of new development, not necessarily on land that gives the largest environmental utility (Sedjo et al. 1998, Clémençon 2008). The apparent motivation to focus policy strategies on land under immediate threat is to prevent development before it exerts its environmental impact. This strategy is nearly a perfect equation for escalation of conflict, because it motivates conservationists to prevent the actions that are highest priority for developers. If conservation is effective in preventing development, then conservationists win and developers lose. If conservation is not effective in preventing development, then developers win and conservationists lose. A third plausible outcome of this policy strategy is that a conservation project might inspire developers to shift their future development from their first priority locations to their second priority locations. The process whereby conservation at one location causes development to shift from that location to another location is known as leakage Leakage can undermine the overall effectiveness of a conservation project in terms of total environmental utility (Schwarze et al. 2002). This chapter presents a general conceptual framework to assess the effectiveness of land conservation projects by using Geographic Information Science (GIS) and land change modeling to analyze development and conservation in the presence of leakage.

Reprinted from: Geoinformatics for Natural Resource Management, 2009, edited by P.K. Joshi et al. with permission from Nova Science Publishers, Inc.