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Conservation Matrix Model

The Conservation Matrix Model represents a paradigm shift from reactive conservation planning in degraded systems to proactive conservation planning in large, intact systems. Rather than addressing "how much is enough?" with regards to protection, this model addresses "how much is too much?" with regards to human development on the landscape.


The Conservation Matrix Model

  • Integrates science-based conservation and resource management
  • Creates a framework that maintains flexibility in achieving regional conservation goals in the face of uncertainty
  • Identifies ecologically sustainable activities.
A New Vision for Conservation Planning

The Conservation Matrix Model (CMM) is a broad conceptual framework for the design of ecological networks to facilitate biodiversity, conservation and sustainable use across a spectrum of opportunities. It combines the strength of systematic planning for reserves with the systematic process of adaptive resource management, resulting in integrated conservation planning over large regions.

Planning for an Integrated Landscape

Planning for an integrated landscape shifts the focus from biodiversity conservation and restoring ecological processes, to maintaining ecological flows such as the movements of organisms, water, and nutrients across the land. Land use planning consistent with a conservation-matrix model focuses on identifying elements of the landscape that play four principal roles (Fig 1):

 Fig 1. Elements of the Conservation Matrix Model

Ecological benchmarks are the anchors of an interconnected conservation network, and serve as reference sites or controls for understanding the natural dynamics of ecosystems and their response to human activities. They are biodiversity “insurance policies” and buffers to environmental stressors that tend to compromise ecological integrity.

Site-specific protected areas capture values that may not be well represented within benchmark areas, such as additional areas of cultural significance, habitats or ecosystems of special scientific or conservation concern, identified "special elements" (e.g., rare species occurrences), and features that are key to maintaining connectivity across landscapes.

Active management areas are sites of relatively intense human activity, such as those associated with human settlements, forestry, mining, hydroelectric developments, and the transportation infrastructure linking these activities.

The conservation matrix is the supportive environment within which less intense human activities are carefully planned and managed in an integrated fashion, so as not to erode other values.

The elements of the CMM offer a spectrum of policy opportunities that land-use planners can apply according to landscape condition and management goals. Within this framework, the same level of attention and sophistication that has been applied to the design of protected areas is applied to identifying where, when, and how development activities occur. 

Application of the Conservation Matrix Model

The CMM was prominent in the science recommendations for the Ontario Far North. To review the report of the Ontario Far North Science Advisory Panel, click here. The CMM is highlighted in Chapter 4: Approaches to Land Use Planning.



Feb 14 2018
Northwest Boreal Benchmark Analysis Released

Nov 20 2017
BEACONs' Webinar Tuesday Nov 28

Jul 24 2017
BEACONs' Website - New content coming soon!

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