Fuller, R.A., McGowan, P.J.K., Carroll, J.P., Dekker, R.W.R.J. & Garson, P.J. 2003. What does IUCN species action planning contribute to the conservation process? Biological Conservation, 112, 343–349.
More than 60 Species Action Plans have been published by the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of IUCN – The World Conservation Union. They are designed to assess the status of threatened species and their habitats, and provide prioritised recommendations for action, but there is debate about the effectiveness of such plans in stimulating conservation action and research. We evaluated three Action Plans covering a group of large terrestrial birds, published in 1995. Of 54 projects suggested in these plans, 33 had been initiated in the five years since publication, and 35 specific conservation actions were undertaken. Forty-five peer-reviewed papers were published, and at least 88 other outputs in the form of symposium presentations, posters and popular articles were produced. Although it is impossible to demonstrate the effectiveness of species action planning through rigorous scientific assessment, these results indicate a substantial amount of conservation-relevant activity directly attributable to the process. They also highlight the need for a clear definition of the role of Action Plans. We suggest that many of the criticisms directed toward species action plans result from an over-optimistic view of their power to catalyse action and present a new model describing their niche within the wider context of conservation biology and policy.