Modernizing natural areas management: outlines of the efficacy revolution

Publication Type  Conference Presentation
Authors  Daniel Gluesenkamp
Affiliations  Audubon Canyon Ranch
Year  2009

Californians have managed natural systems for ten millennia, employing a relatively simple set of tools to favor desirable species and select against unwanted taxa. Contemporary natural resource management is significantly more complicated, as we manage an expanding list of desirable species and a growing diversity of unwanted taxa in a changing environment. Fortunately, conservation has undergone a burst of innovation in recent decades, and we are developing an array of tools which can be applied to protect important biodiversity.

However, in many ways conservation practice has remained stagnant. It is not always clear what we are trying to achieve with our actions, and it is often difficult to know whether we have succeeded or failed. This situation is comparable to that seen in human obstetrics; until recently, and in spite of an array of advanced tools available in hospitals, mortality of mothers and babies was often lower when birth occurred at home. Obstetrics was improved by an efficacy revolution in which practitioners began measuring outcome, adopting best practices, and improving training. Now, natural areas managers are talking about the need for ambitious new tools to counter effects of climate change: assisted migration, breeding neo-natives or selecting for change-tolerant traits. Before adding these “power tools” to our toolbox, it is imperative that we improve our practice, become clear about our objectives, and undergo our own efficacy revolution.

The Bay Area Early Detection Network (BAEDN) is an initiative which coordinates and organizes Early Detection and Rapid Response to plant invasions across the nine counties which contact the San Francisco Bay. We predict which species will be most harmful, coordinate detection of infestations, and prioritize the most harmful outbreaks for eradication. BAEDN then works with agencies and citizens to proactively deal with the highest priority outbreaks before they grow into large and costly threats. This "stitch-in-time" approach minimizes the environmental and economic damage caused by these invaders; educates citizens; and dramatically reduces the need for planning and resources required to control large, established invasive plant populations. With strategic goals, clear numeric objectives, and evaluation of outcome, we hope the BAEDN will serve as an example of the change we need if we are to succeed in our conservation commitment.


Daniel Gluesenkamp, Ph.D is the Director of Habitat Protection and Restoration for Audubon Canyon Ranch and leads in the development, implementation, and evaluation of conservation and restoration projects at ACR’s preserves. His work involves experimental evaluation of management techniques, oversight of stewardship activities, and regional collaboration with local landowners, non-profits, and other agencies to protect ACR lands. Daniel's research focuses on the factors structuring plant communities, particularly as related to the invasion and spread of introduced species, with work in habitats ranging from desert riparian zones to subalpine Sierra meadows. He earned his Ph.D. in Integrative Biology at the University of California at Berkeley with research that revealed how populations of native and alien thistles are shaped by plant competition, by insect herbivory, and by effects of habitat productivity on the relative intensity of competition versus herbivory. Daniel serves as current past-president of the California Invasive Plant Council and is co-founder of the Bay Area Early Detection Network.

Conference Name  2009 State of the Laguna Conference and Science Symposium
Presentation Type: