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The importance of and challenges to verifiable, evidence-based conservation management in practice

Stephan Funk, Julia Fa

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3rd July 2023. 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM ( Room 3)


Verifiable, evidence-based conservation management is the core of science based conservation if it is to efficient and effective; whilst it´s importance has been widely documented and new programmes and methodologies are emerging, it remains rarely applied in practice

Amongst academics and practitioners in the field of conservation biology there is broad consensus that in the face of rapidly declining biodiversity and limited resources any remedial actions need to become more efficient and accountable. Verifiable, evidence-based conservation is therefore the basis for achieve this. Decision-making, that relies on adequate information, will ensure effective and efficient outcomes of any management or intervention to resolve urgent societal issues such as climate change or biodiversity loss.

In a key analysis, Southerland et al. (2004) demonstrated that practical conservation is generally emblazoned by lots of activism but suffer from a lack of scientific rigour. Much of the management actions applied in conservation projects or their effectiveness are never scrutinized, analysed and made available to the conservation, scientific or wider community. The aptly named paper “Money for nothing?” which mentions that “for far too long, conservation scientists and practitioners have depended on intuition and anecdote to guide the design of conservation investments” (Ferraro et al. 2006) highlights the concern for better evidence-led conservation actions. Since, several initiatives such as the Conservation Measurements Partnership CMP or the Conservation Evidence Project in Cambridge have been introduced and several papers highlighting and addressing the problem have been published. There has been significant progress regarding evidence-based conservation but the lack of widespread evidence remains widespread. “There is yet to be a transformational change in the use of evidence in conservation [achieved]” (Southerland 2022). Why is this the case? Evidence-based management requires advanced levels of technical expertise and implementation in ecology and data analyses, therefore conservation organizations must (1) train and build capacity, (2) commit human resources (trained expert staff) to adequate monitoring, data analysis and reporting, (3) ensure sufficient finances are secured for adequate monitoring, data analysis and reporting and pledge to greater transparency, accountability and replicability of the work carried out. These factors jointly are, however, not often implemented in conservation projects for diverse reasons.

Verifiable, evidence-based conservation is particularly challenging in tropical areas because of remoteness, dense forests, inhospitable environments and, often, human conflict and civil strife. The symposium will synthesise the merits of evidence-based conservation, why it is rarely applied despite an increasing number of references and programmes endorsing it, and how to better implement it in the future. It will also look at new techniques suitable for monitoring and quantifying conservation evidence in tropical areas.

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