Tool name * MARXAN
  • Design of new reserve systems
  • Reporting on the performance of existing reserve systems
  • Developing multiple-use zoning plans for natural resource management

See Watts et al., 2009 for an extension of of Marxan called Marxan with Zones. Marxan can assist with the evaluation of existing reserve systems to identify gaps in biodiversity protection, identify areas to include in new reserve systems, and provide decision support by producing a number of different options that meet both socio-economic and conservation objectives. Marxan has also been used to support multiple-use zoning plans that balance the varied interests of stakeholders.

Category All, Decision Support, Spatial Planning
What step(s) in analysis framework 1a, 1b
What step(s) in Governance framework

Input parameter file, planning unit file, conservation feature file, conservation feature distribution file, block definition file (optional) and boundary length file (optional). Marxan does not consider uncertainty in the data so the quality of what you put in is reflected in the results generated.

Data Quality Required


Modification Required


Expertise Required


Spatial and Temporal

Terrestrial, freshwater, and marine systems


•Identify areas that efficiently meet targets for a range of biodiversity features for minimal cost•Use the principle of complementarity to select planning units which complement the conservation area network (the whole is more than the sum of its parts);•Meet spatial requirements such as compactness of a reserve system;•Include data on ecological processes, threats, and condition;•Identify tradeoffs between conservation and socio-economic objectives; and•Generate a number of very good solutionsOutput files can be of the csv type which Arcview can read in directly.

License cost issues


Literature: References & Manuals *
  • **See Marxan Good Practices Handbook in the Useful Documents Tab **
  • Ardron, J.A., Possingham, H.P., and Klein, C.J. (eds). 2010. Marxan Good Practices Handbook, Version 2. Pacific Marine Analysis and Research Association, Victoria, BC, Canada. 165 pages.
  • Ball, I.R., H.P. Possingham, and M. Watts. 2009. Marxan and relatives: Software for spatial conservation prioritisation. Chapter 14: Pages 185-195 in Spatial conservation prioritisation: Quantitative methods and computational tools.
  • Eds Moilanen, A., K.A. Wilson, and H.P. Possingham. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. (
  • Watts, M.E., Ball, I.R., Stewart, R.S., Klein, C.J., Wilson, K., Steinback, C., Lourival, R., Kircher, L., Possingham, H.P. Marxan with Zones: software for optimal conservation based land- and sea-use zoning. Environmental Modelling Software, 2009, 24, 1513-1521