Democratising spatial conservation planning with Marxan.


Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first protected area, was created in 1872. Today, a worldwide network of more than 250,000 protected areas covers 23% of Earth. Choosing which places to protect has always been a challenge, and in the last few decades, planners have turned to science and technology for help. Marxan was born from this development. Over the past 20 years, this open-source spatial planning software has been used in over 180 countries to design protected areas and balance biodiversity conservation, community needs, and other political and economic constraints across the land and seas.

As demand grew, it became clear that a revolution was coming for Marxan. A revolution that would help democratise spatial planning for all users who want to integrate evidence-based decision making into the next decade of conservation planning. 

In 2020, we became the primary developers realising the vision of Democratizing Marxan, a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, Microsoft, the European Commission, and the Marxan Community of Practice that is bringing Marxan to the cloud. We are responsible for product development, including user research, platform stabilisation and scalability through cloud-based architecture, design, data science, and software development. 

With natural systems under increasing threat, and the global climate and biodiversity crises accelerating, the decisions made in the next 10 years will determine the fate of our planet. We are helping position this powerful new platform on the global conservation stage so that Marxan remains a world-leading conservation planning software supporting decisions for protected areas, fisheries management, agriculture and forestry, communities, restoration, and climate adaptation and mitigation strategies at this critical time for the planet. 

In Mongolia, 177,000 km2 of new national and local protected areas were designated through a Government-led, stakeholder and community planning process that used Marxan.

The Protected Area Network of Mongolia is one the most representative networks in the world, balancing traditional pastoral livelihoods with the protection of some of the world’s largest intact temperate grasslands.

Democratise systematic conservation planning.

The world is racing to prevent further irreversible biodiversity loss. By democratising conservation planning, the quality, efficiency, and transparency of conservation efforts can be improved. Marxan aims to do this by reducing the effort, time, and cost involved. An optimised algorithm, an improved user interface, and preloaded datasets all contribute to a workflow that makes it easier to analyse and understand the trade-offs and solutions to the world’s most pressing conservation challenges.

The bridge between conservation data and technology.

For over a decade, we’ve been helping NGOs accelerate their mission of change. Today, we’re using our knowledge of mapping technology and massive conservation datasets to democratise conservation planning software. With one foot in the conservation world and another in technology, Vizzuality is perfectly placed to understand the challenges and opportunities in both — and beautifully bring them together.

Marxan software is free and open.

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