The term conservation can have many meanings. For the purposes of this toolkit, conservation means any voluntary action (i.e., not required under a regulatory framework) that directly protects or improves a natural habitat or process, including any subcomponent of a natural habitat (such as an individual species) or process (such as shoreline drift).
Conservation activities may include preservation, enhancement, restoration, and creation activities, which occur on a continuum of historical habitat conditions (see image at-right). A description of these terms can be found below.
This toolkit adopts conservation-related terms and definitions that are often used in the United States for regulatory purposes. However, globally there are no standardized definitions for these terms. To see how these activities may be implemented in the water, see Sub-step 4.8 Habitat Management in the MCA Field Guide.
Preservation activities maintain current conditions at sites by removing current threats and preventing future threats. Preservation activities normally occur on sites that are relatively intact (i.e., pristine) compared to their historical habitat conditions. Preventing bottom trawling of sensitive bottomlands is an example of preservation.
Enhancement activities heighten, intensify, or improve naturally occurring historical conditions to sites that have been degraded but still possess some level of their historically occurring natural conditions. Enhancement activities can include habitat improvements or reintroductions that increase species abundance or levels of production. Depositing material (cultch) to attract native oyster larvae and build up native oyster populations on areas of low native oyster productivity is an example of enhancement.
Restoration activities return naturally occurring historical conditions to sites that have been degraded to such an extent that they no longer possess any of their historically occurring natural conditions. Removing fill from a historical intertidal area to re-establish the gradient, substrate, vegetation, and aquatic function is an example of restoration.
Creation activities develop (artificial) conditions that are not naturally occurring at sites. Creation activities can include changing terrestrial habitats into aquatic habitats and/or changing one type of aquatic habitat into a different type. Creation activities can technically occur on any site, regardless of the current condition of the site relative to its historical condition.