Conservation management is becoming increasingly resource intensive as threats to biodiversity grow through habitat destruction, habitat disturbance, and overexploitation. To achieve successful conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, we need to scientifically evaluate the effectiveness of conservation interventions and provide an efficient framework through which scientific evidence can be used to support decision making in policy and practice. We conducted the first formal assessment of the extent to which scientific evidence is used in conservation management through a questionnaire survey and follow-up interviews of compilers of protected-area management plans from major conservation organizations within the United Kingdom and Australia. Our survey results show that scientific information is not being used systematically to support decision making largely because it is not easily accessible to decision makers. This, in combination with limited monitoring and evaluation of effectiveness of management interventions, results in the majority of decisions being based on experience rather than on evidence. To address this problem we propose using an evidence-based framework adapted from that used in the health services and explain how we are currently putting an equivalent framework into practice by establishing review and dissemination units to serve the conservation sector.
Setting aside entire ecosystems in reserves is an efficient way to maintain biodiversity because large numbers of species are protected, but ecosystem conservation constitutes a coarse filter that does not address some species. A complementary, fine-filter approach is also required to provide tailored management for some species (e.g., those subject to direct exploitation). Mesofilter conservation is another complementary approach that focuses on conserving critical elements of ecosystems that are important to many species, especially those likely to be overlooked by fine-filter approaches, such as invertebrates, fungi, and nonvascular plants. Critical elements include structures such as logs, snags, pools, springs, streams, reefs, and hedgerows, and processes such as fires and floods. Mesofilter conservation is particularly appropriate for seminatural ecosystems that are managed for both biodiversity and commodity production (e.g., forests managed for timber, grasslands managed for livestock forage, and aquatic ecosystems managed for fisheries) and is relevant to managing some agricultural and urban environments for biodiversity.
Climate change poses a challenge to the conventional approach to biodiversity conservation, which relies on fixed protected areas, because the changing climate is expected to shift the distribution of suitable areas for many species. Some species will persist only if they can colonize new areas, although in some cases their dispersal abilities may be very limited. To address this problem we devised a quantitative method for identifying multiple corridors of connectivity through shifting habitat suitabilities that seeks to minimize dispersal demands first and then the area of land required. We applied the method to Proteaceae mapped on a 1-minute grid for the western part of the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa, to supplement the existing protected areas, using Worldmap software. Our goal was to represent each species in at least 35 grid cells (approximately 100 km ) at all times between 2000 and 2050 despite climate change. Although it was possible to achieve the goal at reasonable cost, caution will be needed in applying our method to reserves or other conservation investments until there is further information to support or refine the climate-change models and the species' habitat-suitability and dispersal models.
Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) represents multiple bodies of knowledge accumulated through many generations of close interactions between people and the natural world. TEK and its application via customary ecological management plans can be useful in modern conservation programs. I disaggregate the term TEK into its constituent parts and show several ways in which TEK can strengthen research designs by increasing locality-specific knowledge, including environmental linkages occurring in those localities. Examples of the uses of TEK in conservation include folk taxonomy in systematics in Micronesia, species knowledge for conservation in Kiribati, and fishers' knowledge of ecological interactions for reserve design in Belize. When conservationists recognize the utility of TEK, they can engage in an equitable exchange of knowledge and foster shared responsibility with indigenous people. These types of exchanges can also provide an opportunity for indigenous people to develop a scientific infrastructure.
Freshwater biodiversity is highly endangered and faces increasing threats worldwide. To be complete, regional plans that identify critical areas for conservation must capture representative components of freshwater biodiversity as well as rare and endangered species. We present a spatially hierarchical approach to classify freshwater systems to create a coarse filter to capture representative freshwater biodiversity in regional conservation plans. The classification framework has four levels that we described using abiotic factors within a zoogeographic context and mapped in a geographic information system. Methods to classify and map units are flexible and can be automated where high-quality spatial data exist, or can be manually developed where such data are not available. Products include a spatially comprehensive inventory of mapped and classified units that can be used remotely to characterize regional patterns of aquatic ecosystems. We provide examples of classification procedures in data-rich and data-poor regions from the Columbia River Basin in the Pacific Northwest of North America and the upper Paraguay River in central South America. The approach, which has been applied in North, Central, and South America, provides a relatively rapid and pragmatic way to account for representative freshwater biodiversity at scales appropriate to regional assessments.
Abstract A long-term, volunteer-based nest-box program for American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) breeding in eastern Pennsylvania was evaluated to identify ways to increase the efficiency of the program and to identify general principles that can be used to improve long-term conservation efforts for other nest-box programs. Between 1993 and 2002, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary volunteers maintained and monitored approximately 270 kestrel nest boxes. Reproductive parameters of kestrels in these nest boxes were similar to those reported in other studies, and kestrels attempted nesting twice in a single year on 11 occasions. Nesting success varied among nest boxes, and productivity was consistently high at some nest boxes and consistently low at others. As a result, approximately half of all nestlings came from the 25% of nest boxes that were used most frequently, and fewer than 7% of kestrels fledged from the 25% of the nest boxes that were used least frequently. Our analysis suggests that volunteer field effort co... Resumen Resultados sobre un estudio a largo sobre Falco sparverius: implicaciones para mejorar la monitoría y conservación del ave Un estudio a largo alcance sobre un programa de proveer con cajas de anidamiento a falcones (Falco sparverius) fue evaluado para identificar las formas de incrementar la eficiencia del programa e identificar principios generales que puedan ser utilizados para la conservación de la especie. El trabajo se llevó a cabo entre 1993 y 2002 en Hawk Mountain Santuary, Pennsylvarnia, utilizando voluntarios los cuales monitorearon aproximadamente 270 cajas utilizadas para anidar por el falcón. Los parámetros reproductivos del ave, en dichas cajas, fue similar al informado en otros estudios. En un año en particular, las aves intentaron reanidar en once ocasiones. El éxito de los nidos varió entre las cajas, y la productividad fue consistentemente alta en algunas cajas y consistentemente bajas en otras. Como resultado, aproximadamente el 50% de los pichones provinieron del 25% de las caja...
By facilitating bioliteracy, DNA barcoding has the potential to improve the way the world relates to wild biodiversity. Here we describe the early stages of the use of,barcoding to supplement and strengthen the taxonomic platform underpinning the inventory of thousands of sympatric species of caterpillars in tropical dry forest, cloud forest and rain forest in northwestern Costa Rica. The results show that barcoding a biologically complex biota unambiguously distinguishes among 97% of more than 1000 species of reared Lepidoptera. Those few species whose barcodes overlap are closely related and not confused with other species. Barcoding also has revealed a substantial number of cryptic species among morphologically defined species, associated sexes, and reinforced identification of species that are difficult to distinguish morphologically. For barcoding to achieve its full potential, (i) ability to rapidly and cheaply barcode older museum specimens is urgent, (ii) museums need to address the opportunity and responsibility for housing large numbers of barcode voucher specimens, (iii) substantial resources need be mustered to support the taxonomic side of the partnership with barcoding, and (iv) hand-held field-friendly barcorder must emerge as a mutualism with the taxasphere and the barcoding initiative, in a manner such that its use generates a resource base for the taxonomic process as well as a tool for the user.
As the process of marine-protected-area design and implementation evolves, the incorporation of new tools will advance our ability to create and maintain effective protected areas. We reviewed characteristics and approaches that contribute to successful global marine conservation efforts. One successful characteristic emphasized in most case studies is the importance of incorporating stakeholders at all phases of the process. Clearly defined goals and objectives at all stages of the design process are important for improved communication and standardized expectations of stakeholder groups. The inclusion of available science to guide the size and design of marine protected areas and to guide clear monitoring strategies that assess success at scientific, social, and economic levels is also an important tool in the process. Common shortcomings in marine conservation planning strategies include government instability and resultant limitations to monitoring and enforcement, particularly in developing nations. Transferring knowledge to local community members has also presented challenges in areas where in situ training, local capacity, and existing infrastructure are sparse. Inaccessible, unavailable, or outdated science is often a limitation to conservation projects in developed and developing nations. To develop and maintain successful marine protected areas, it is necessary to acknowledge that each case is unique, to apply tools and lessons learned from other marine protected areas, and to maintain flexibility to adjust to the individual circumstances of the case at hand.
Unsustainable hunting of wildlife for food is often a more immediate and significant threat to the conservation of biological diversity in tropical forests than deforestation. Why people eat wildlife is debated. Some may eat bushmeat because they can afford it; others may eat it because it is familiar, traditional, confers prestige, tastes good, or adds variety. We completed a survey of 1208 rural and urban households in Gabon, Africa, in 2002-2003 to estimate the effect of wealth and prices on the consumption of wildlife and other sources of animal protein. Consumption of bushmeat, fish, chicken, and livestock increased with increasing household wealth, and as the price of these commodities rose, consumption declined. Although the prices of substitutes for bushmeat did not significantly, in statistical terms, influence bushmeat consumption, as the price of wildlife increased and its consumption fell, the consumption of fish rose, indicating that fish and bushmeat were dietary substitutes. Our results suggest that policy makers can use economic levers such as taxation or supply reduction through better law enforcement to change demand for wildlife. These measures will help to regulate unsustainable exploitation and reduce the risk of irreversible loss of large-bodied and slow-reproducing wildlife species. If policy makers focus solely on reducing the unsustainable consumption of wildlife, they may see adverse impacts on the exploitation of fish. Furthermore, policy makers must ensure that raising household wealth through development assistance does not result in undesirable impacts on the conservation status of wildlife and fish.