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There has been much discussion about the difference between marine and terrestrial systems and appropriateness of applying terrestrial conservation methods to marine systems. To investigate these issues, 43 criteria were assessed for magnitude of difference and implications for conservation planning. Results suggest that despite distinct differences in the ecology of marine and terrestrial systems, many of the conservation concepts applied in terrestrial systems are relevant and readily transferable to marine systems. Concern that marine systems may be too open and variable to support area-based conservation approaches is quickly abating. This initial misconception was influenced not only by real differences in ecology and scale of the two systems, but also by historic biases in our knowledge and use of these systems. In broad terms, as our understanding of these systems continues to develop, it is increasingly clear that both are subject to a similar suite of conservation issues requiring similar types of responses. In many regards the underlying conservation planning approaches currently applied in these systems are tending to converge towards a ‘landscape’ management approach incorporating on and off-reserve conservation techniques. Increasingly for marine and terrestrial systems, the most important conservation planning objectives include the establishment of secure systems of appropriately located, designed and managed protected areas, and to integrate their application with sustainable management and supplementary conservation management in the off-reserve matrix.

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