Gordon A (2015) Implementing backcasting for conservation: Determining multiple policy pathways for retaining future targets of endangered woodlands in Sydney, Australia . BIOLOGICAL CONSERVATION 181:182-189

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Developing conservation policy is a challenging process, often impeded by a lack of clear objectives and a limited understanding of the pathways to achieve them. Here, the utility of target-based 'backcasting' is demonstrated for developing effective conservation policies. Backcasting encodes social values by requiring a desired future state be selected as a target; it then involves searching for multiple pathways to reach this state from the present. This approach is demonstrated with a case study examining policy options for mitigating impacts from the growth of Sydney on a critically endangered woodland community. A model was developed to predict changes in woodland area over time in response to a range of processes: declines in habitat condition; legal and illegal clearing for development; and the implementation of biodiversity offsets to compensate for clearing. Using a target of retaining 60% of the current woodland distribution in 50. years time, the backcasting analysis involved searching for all combinations of processes that would achieve this target. Results demonstrate how backcasting provides a structured way to explore the trade-offs and robustness of combinations of policy interventions leading to a desirable future. For this case study, the most viable way of achieving the target may be to ensure the offset policy is adequate and enforced. If this was not feasible, the analysis shows that reducing the rate at which habitat is declining in condition would be most important in opening up other policy options. This study provides the first quantitative demonstration of backcasting in a conservation context.