There is a substantial literature documenting the spatial mismatch between the geographic location of biological resources and the spatial jurisdiction of the institutions responsible for their management. But little attention has been paid to the disjuncture in temporal scales between the long-term requirements of biodiversity conservation and the short time horizons governing public and private decisions affecting the survival of species and ecosystems. How can we create socially agreed-upon rules governing the long-term use and conservation of biodiversity when ongoing change is one of the defining characteristics of modern society? This article describes a new approach to biodiversity conservation—conservation systems—that addresses this question by providing design criteria that can be used to construct resilient social safety nets for biological diversity.

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