AboutZoos, Since 2008


Con­ser­va­tion research is not hap­pen­ing in the right places

pub­lished 31 March 2016 | mod­i­fied 31 March 2016

Tumbes Choco Magdalena biodiversity hotspotCon­ser­va­tion research is not being done in the coun­tries where it is most needed — a sit­u­a­tion which is likely to under­mine efforts to pre­serve global biodiversity.

That’s the con­clu­sion of a new inter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tive study pub­lished on 29 March in PLOS Biol­ogy led by Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor Ker­rie Wil­son from The Uni­ver­sity of Queensland’s School of Bio­log­i­cal Sci­ences and the Aus­tralian Research Coun­cil Cen­tre of Excel­lence for Envi­ron­men­tal Deci­sions (CEED).

Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor Wil­son said the analy­sis revealed that less con­ser­va­tion research was under­taken in the world’s most bio­di­verse coun­tries, such as Indone­sia and Ecuador.

The study analysed more than 10,000 con­ser­va­tion sci­ence papers from more than 1000 jour­nals pub­lished in 2014. The researchers com­pared the coun­tries where these stud­ies were done with the world’s most impor­tant coun­tries for bio­di­ver­sity conservation.

What they found sug­gested a mis­match between need and effort. “If you dig a lit­tle deeper, it gets worse,” Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor Wil­son said. The sci­ence con­ducted in these coun­tries is often not led by sci­en­tists based in those coun­tries and these sci­en­tists are also under-​represented in impor­tant inter­na­tional forums.

This adds up to a wide­spread bias in the field of con­ser­va­tion sci­ence. If research is biased away from the most impor­tant areas for bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion, then this will accen­tu­ate the impacts of the global bio­di­ver­sity cri­sis and reduce our capac­ity to pro­tect and man­age the nat­ural ecosys­tems that under­pin human well-​being.”

Build­ing a Green Future in North Suma­tra, Indone­sia
For­tu­nately, there are efforts directed at con­serv­ing the right crit­i­cal bio­di­ver­sity hotspots, such as the provinces Mandail­ing Natal and Tapan­uli Sela­tan in the north of Suma­tra. The Sus­tain­able Land­scapes Part­ner­ship (SLP) works with local gov­ern­ments and other part­ners to address cli­mate change, con­serve forests and improve liveli­hoods. With sup­port from SLP, gov­ern­ments, com­mu­ni­ties, busi­nesses and NGOs develop and test inno­v­a­tive, landscape-​scale solu­tions to prob­lems caused by human pres­sures on nature. The goal is a sus­tain­able devel­op­ment path that pro­tects our food, fresh water, liveli­hoods and cli­mate that accounts for nature’s crit­i­cal role in their and our well-​being:

(Source: Con­ser­va­tion Inter­na­tional YouTube channel)

Biases in con­ser­va­tion sci­ence will also under­mine our abil­ity to meet Tar­get 19 of the Con­ven­tion on Bio­di­ver­sity. Our com­pre­hen­sive analy­sis of pub­lish­ing trends in con­ser­va­tion sci­ence lit­er­a­ture sug­gests we won’t meet this tar­get if these biases aren’t addressed.”

The researchers believe that a range of solu­tions is needed, includ­ing reform­ing open access pub­lish­ing poli­cies, enhanc­ing sci­ence com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gies, chang­ing author attri­bu­tion prac­tices, improv­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion in inter­na­tional processes, and strength­en­ing infra­struc­ture and human capac­ity for research in coun­tries where it is most needed.

We won’t change the sit­u­a­tion by sim­ply ignor­ing it,” Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor Wil­son said. “Researchers need to exam­ine their own agen­das and focus on areas with the great­est need.”

(Source: Uni­ver­sity of Queens­land media release, 30.03.2016)

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Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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