The practice and promise of private land conservation

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In many countries around the globe, private freehold lands cover large areas. Conservation on these private lands, next to statutory protected areas, promises to play a critical role in efforts for reaching internationally agreed environmental protection targets. Lying at the heart of an emerging land system science, in which ecology, economics, geography, psychology, and other social sciences interact, private land conservation is reflecting the intertwined and multiscalar processes of our rapidly transforming world. Situated at this disciplinary meeting point, private land conservation invites a great breadth of approaches and cross-disciplinary work that offer deep insights into social and environmental change, often from surprising angles. Although many questions remain in private land conservation, we can now build on a large body of recent high-quality studies as we push this field forward in both research and practice. The Special Feature “Private Land Conservation-Landowner Motives, Policies, and Outcomes of Conservation Measures in Unprotected Landscapes” brings together contributions that explore the diversity of recent advances in private land conservation science. As an introduction to this Special Feature, first we are reviewing recent dynamics in important social-ecological drivers with bearing on private land conservation science. We go on to introduce the individual contributions to this Special Feature and then examine common themes as they are emerging from these papers, including the need for flexibility in conservation approaches, pursuit of community cobenefits of conservation, increasing consideration of environmental justice questions, and acknowledgment of the importance of social psychology in shaping private land conservation. We conclude with identification of knowledge gaps and recommendations for future research, as we advance from diagnostics to normative work in private land conservation science.

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Ecology and Society

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