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An evaluation of Species Action Plans and factors influencing conservation reintroduction success

Harding, Gemma (2023) An evaluation of Species Action Plans and factors influencing conservation reintroduction success. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.102692) (KAR id:102692)


Through the Convention on Biological Diversity and the various approaches of governments and NGOs, Species Action Plans (SAPs) have become key in framing conservation action for threatened species. Despite their wide deployment in conservation, there have been no global comparative studies of SAP structure and content and how they are created, reviewed, and utilised. Species reintroductions often form a key part of SAPs and species recovery actions. Although species reintroductions are frequently assessed in terms of their outcomes, it is often unclear what 'success' or 'failure' mean and what factors might drive them. I aimed to establish (1) the key components and outputs of Species Action Plans, and how they compare across regions, taxa, and time; (2) how conservation practitioners utilise and perceive Species Action Plans; and (3) the factors that are influencing species reintroduction successes and failures. I did this by applying a mixed method approach utilising questionnaires and analysing case studies to establish practitioner perceptions, and patterns and relationships within the data. Results highlight the variation in SAP content across regions and time, finding that SAPs vary in structure and components across regions but less so across taxa, and that SAPs have evolved across time in line with scientific evidence, practice, and the associated development of guidance. Of note were the increased inclusion in recent years of success criteria and indicators, and that post-SAP reviews and evaluations were scarce and contained little information on SAP implementation or the success of actions in relation to indicators or monitoring. The development, value, utilization, and evaluation of SAPs was researched using data from an online questionnaire targeted at conservation practitioners. Conservation practitioners' perceptions of SAPs were positive, indicating that SAPs are highly valued and utilised widely. In relation to SAP content and structure, four principal components considered core to a SAP were identified. These were: (1) Strategic action and threats; (2) Species status; (3) Implementation, monitoring, and financial plans; and (4) Project vision.

An evaluation of species reintroduction success was undertaken based on a global analysis of 341 case studies. It identified geographical and taxonomic variations in success rates and factors relating to partnerships and support, and habitat and release site as influential in success or failure. Having too many programme goals also appeared to be linked to a negative outcome. In summary, SAPs are extremely valuable but could be improved by having more focussed components that include priority actions, and separate implementation and monitoring plans. Having clear outcomes, measurable indicators or success criteria within SAPs and seeking practitioner feedback allows actions to be assessed and adapted. A stronger focus on partnerships and support, and habitat may improve reintroduction success.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Griffiths, Richard
Thesis advisor: Black, Simon
Thesis advisor: Roberts, David
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.102692
Uncontrolled keywords: Keywords: species action plan, reintroduction, evaluation, success, conservation, species recovery, planning
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Funders: University of Kent (
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 05 Sep 2023 14:10 UTC
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2023 09:52 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Harding, Gemma.

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