Testing a novel approach for synthesising the evidence of the effectiveness of conservation interventions

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Zoology


Considerable effort and money has been devoted to determining the ecological consequences of a wide range of interventions, which has resulted in an extensive literature. However, research shows that practitioners only rarely use this literature when making decisions as to which intervention to implement. Furthermore, many accepted beliefs in conservation practice are actually incorrect. Scientific results are traditionally published in academic journals. However, it is often difficult for practitioners to extract the pertinent information from these. The major problems are that most practitioners do not have access to the Web of Science or equivalent scientific search engines, it is often difficult to target the search for conservation interventions without producing vast numbers of irrelevent titles and many practitioners do not have the training to extract the conservation message from academic papers. Evidence-based medicine has revolutionised medical practice in that the collection, review, and dissemination of the evidence now underpins most medical practice. We suggest that conservation would benefit from a similar revolution and propose that evidence-based conservation should become a standard approach. In this model we envisage practitioners having easy access to summaries of the literature, that they would monitor the effectiveness of some interventions for which the evidence is weak or ambiguous, that there would be reviews and meta analyses where there are numerous studies relating to one issue, and there would be synopses summarising the evidence for the major interventions. This proposal seeks to provide an open access database of the majority of the papers relating to the consequences for birds of conservation interventions. Syntheses of the consequences of a wide range of interventions will be a key output. Full use of the output will also require a change in approaches to conservation. The involvement of all the major organisations involved in bird conservation (BirdLife International - a partnership of over 100 national global bird conservation organisations, British Trust for Ornithology, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Natural England, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Scottish Natural Heritage and World Conservation Monitoring Centre) will both ensure that the project is as required by practitioners but will also ensure that the results will be widely used both in the UK and internationally. Training in the use of evidence-based conservation will be provided through workshops in the UK, Africa and Asia and this work will also be promoted through stands at UK and international meetings. The longer term objective is to change global conservation practice so that the decisions effecting biodiversity are routinely based upon the scientific literature. The expectation is that we can build upon the work and experience of this project to expand it to incorporate all the major aspect of conservation in collaboration with a wide range of other organisation so that the use of evidence in decision making becomes standard practice This proposal would allow us to make a substantial step forward in achieving our objective of reforming global conservation practice.


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Description Testing a novel approach for synthesising the evidence of the effectiveness of conservation interventions
The aim of this work has been to develop evidence-based conservation by collating the evidence on the effectiveness of global conservation interventions. We are delighted by the success of this project and received very favourable feedback.
In collaboration with an expert advisory board of practicing conservationists, 30 international academics, an extensive literature search and wide consultation we developed a list of 322 interventions that are used for bird conservation. We worked with over 30 academics from every continent (listed in the synopsis). A systematic search of the literature produced 1263 research papers that relate to these interventions. Each of these was summarized in a paragraph (many related to more than one intervention and so had multiple entries). These were then summarized for each intervention.
A pdf of the resulting 688 page synopsis is attached to the submission. This will be available as a book. It is expected that this will change attitudes to conservation and more generally by showing that it is possible for practitioners to have relatively easy access to the literature and thus use science as a basis for decision making.
The main publicity drive and dissemination will occur in the late spring 2012 when the book is published. Even though the pdf and website will be far more widely used we are confident that promoting both simultaneously will be more effective.
Nine workshops to 188 international participants explained the process and using worked examples participants explored how it can be used to aid decision making. The Mexico workshop helped to produce a £100k FCO-funded project looking at the impacts of different interventions in tropical pastoral systems. WJS has given 34 lectures on different aspects of this work over the duration of the grant to a wide range from ecologists, conservation biologists to practioners and policy makers (Defra, JNCC, Water UK, Conservation International, British Trust for Ornithology, Wetlands International, World Conservation Monitoring Centre, British Antarctic Survey, Audubon Society, NERC, Zoological Society London, British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Worldwide Fund for Nature)
The success of this work has lead to funding from Arcadia, ESRC and Synchronicity Earth.
We have run booths promoting this work at two British Ecological Society meetings, two Society for Conservation Biology meetings, three Student Conferences in Conservation Science meetings and the Birdfair. Fliers, posters and a banner were produced to advertise the work. At the booths we collected emails to inform them when the synopsis is online.
Meetings have been held to discuss how this could be continued with: Robert Watson (Defra) & Andrew Watkinson (LWEC), Andrew Wood (Head of Evidence Natural England) & Peter Brotherton (head of Biodiversity) and other staff, Peter Bridgewater (Chairman JNCC), the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (about 20 representatives of all the government agencies) and Water UK. The usefulness of this approach and the extent to which this synopis changes practice is being tested by an Australian PhD student based in Cambridge.
Exploitation Route This work has been widey used and has led to a series of other evidene-based conservation activities
Sectors Construction,Energy,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

Description Has been wdely used by practitioners and policy makers for providing the evidence to underpin decision making.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Economic

Description CAP 2020+ Workshop (JRC Ispra, Italy) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presentation at a workshop organised by the Joint Research Centre and DG Agri, in Ispra, North Italy. The title of the workshop was "Brainstorming on evolution of the CAP 2020+: Concepts for a future CAP targeting public good and ecosystem performance at the farm level". Attendees included officials from DG Agri (including those directly responsible for the current Common Agricultural Policy Impact Evaluation) and DG Environment, as well as sustainability professionals from businesses include Nestle.
My presentation was entitled: "Using CAP to enhance ecosystem services at farm level" and was about using evidence synthesis to identify key actions known to be beneficial across multiple ecosystem services.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017