Mills M, JG Alvarez-Romera, K Vance-Borland, P Cohen, RL Pressey, AM Guerrero and H Ernston (2014) Linking regional planning and local action: Towards using social network analysis in systematic conservation planning. BIOLOGICAL CONSERVATION 169:6-13

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Social networks play an important role in facilitating effective and sustained connections between people responsible for regional conservation plans and those responsible for local conservation actions. Yet, few studies have utilized social network analysis in systematic conservation planning initiatives; this, in spite of social network analysis being developed as a structural and relational approach to describe and analyze the characteristics of patterns of relationships that make collaborative efforts more or less effective at solving natural resource management problems. Systematic conservation planning provides a framework for allocating actions in time and space to promote the conservation of biodiversity. Our study discusses three potential contributions of social network analysis to systematic conservation planning: identifying stakeholders and their roles in social networks, and characterizing relationships between them; designing and facilitating strategic networking to strengthen linkages between local and regional conservation initiatives; and prioritizing conservation actions using measures of social connectivity alongside ecological data. We propose that social network analysis has the potential to be a valuable tool to support decision making in conservation planning. We identify challenges and future research questions to be addressed to allow the integration of social network analysis into conservation planning processes.