In Europe, most conservation management takes place in habitats with a long history of cultural management, such as grassland, forests, heaths, sand dunes, fens, mires, watercourses and lakes. In these cases, the most appropriate approach to monitoring the impact of conservation management is to simply assess whether the management has delivered the expected results, in much the same way that a farmer assesses whether a crop has achieved the expected yield. However, this means that we should clearly define what we want to achieve, where we want to achieve it, and how to recognise when we have achieved it. Therefore, the process of developing a monitoring project promotes responsible conservation management by:
- Encouraging us to consider why our sites are important, and which parts of a site are important for the protected habitat and species present (Unitisation);
- Prompting us to prioritise resources for managing the most important habitats and species;
- Making us think about how to recognise whether a habitat or species is in optimal condition, when it is under threat, or when it has been restored i.e. provide condition indicators; and
- Providing feedback that will allow us to make an appropriate management response before the conservation interest is irreparably damaged or lost.