A Multidisciplinary Conceptualization of Conservation Opportunity

Katie Moon, Vanessa M. Adams, Stephanie R. Januchowski-Hartley, Maksym Polyakov, Morena Mills, Duan Biggs, Andrew T. Knight, Edward T. Game, Christopher M. Raymond

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    39 Citations (Scopus)


    An opportunity represents an advantageous combination of circumstances that allows goals to be achieved. We reviewed the nature of opportunity and how it manifests in different subsystems (e.g., biophysical, social, political, economic) as conceptualized in other bodies of literature, including behavior, adoption, entrepreneur, public policy, and resilience literature. We then developed a multidisciplinary conceptualization of conservation opportunity. We identified 3 types of conservation opportunity: potential, actors remove barriers to problem solving by identifying the capabilities within the system that can be manipulated to create support for conservation action; traction, actors identify windows of opportunity that arise from exogenous shocks, events, or changes that remove barriers to solving problems; and existing, everything is in place for conservation action (i.e., no barriers exist) and an actor takes advantage of the existing circumstances to solve problems. Different leverage points characterize each type of opportunity. Thus, unique stages of opportunity identification or creation and exploitation exist: characterizing the system and defining problems; identifying potential solutions; assessing the feasibility of solutions; identifying or creating opportunities; and taking advantage of opportunities. These stages can be undertaken independently or as part of a situational analysis and typically comprise the first stage, but they can also be conducted iteratively throughout a conservation planning process. Four types of entrepreneur can be identified (business, policy, social, and conservation), each possessing attributes that enable them to identify or create opportunities and take advantage of them. We examined how different types of conservation opportunity manifest in a social-ecological system (the Great Barrier Reef) and how they can be taken advantage of. Our multidisciplinary conceptualization of conservation opportunity strengthens and legitimizes the concept.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1484-1496
    Number of pages13
    JournalConservation Biology
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


    • Case studies
    • Conservation actions
    • Entrepreneur
    • Opportunity exploitation
    • Socio-ecological system
    • Window of opportunity


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