Stanford, B., E. Zavaleta, A. Millard-Balla
The distribution of conservation effort on the landscape is affected by both ecological and social priorities and constraints. Together these influences can result in bias towards certain types of ecological or human communities. The authors evaluate the distribution of restoration projects on the California Central Coast, USA, to evaluate sociopolitical and biophysical influences on the type and distribution of one type of conservation effort. They compiled data on 699 sites with publicly funded stream restoration and management projects completed in the past 30 years and the biophysical and sociopolitical characteristics of the 310 sub-catchments in the study area. Their database contains three categories of stream projects: ecological restoration to benefit natural ecosystems, human-oriented projects to enhance ecosystem services, and data collection projects for planning and monitoring. Both ecological and human-oriented restoration efforts were clustered near the coastline. Stream activities of all kinds were highest in sub-catchments with water quality impairment, high population density, high pro-environmental voting, and a highly educated, wealthy, non-Hispanic white population. Ecological restoration and data collection were also greater in catchments with higher native fish richness. Our findings indicate that restoration activity is aligned with, and perhaps responding to, ecological need, and that restoration efforts are concentrated near human population centers and restoration organizations. Disparities in conservation effort by income, race, and education are concerning and should be evaluated in more depth and in other regions.