Conservation when nothing stands still: moving targets and biodiversity offsets



Conservation is particularly difficult to implement for “moving targets”, such as migratory species or landscapes subject to environmental change. Traditional conservation strategies involving static tools (eg protected areas that have fixed spatial boundaries) may be ineffective for managing species whose ranges are changing. This shortfall needs to be addressed urgently. More dynamic conservation-based approaches have been suggested but remain mostly theoretical, and so implementation issues and measures of success have yet to be explored. In recent years, however, the concept of biodiversity offsets has gained traction in the conservation community. Such offsets effectively replace biodiversity “lost” during current economic development projects, and are intended to ensure “no net loss” of biodiversity overall. Given their flexibility and unique no-net-loss requirement, offsets provide a platform for testing dynamic new approaches to conservation. Here we explore the potential for offsets to conserve moving targets, using a complex dynamic example: the migratory saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) in Uzbekistan.