The Conservation Planning Group has a new paper published, titled “From displacement activities to evidence-informed decisions in conservation“. The paper, authored by Bob Pressey, Rebecca Weeks, and Georgina Gurney, argues that much activity in conservation is focused on measures that fail to tell us how much difference we are making for biodiversity. This incorrect focus entails the very large risk of misallocating conservation resources and failing to intervene in the loss of natural values. The basic problem here is “the tail wagging the dog”, whereby misleading measures are embedded into science and practice, becoming ends to achieve in themselves rather than being seen as possible means (subject to rigorous thinking) to the end of avoiding loss of biodiversity. The paper criticises some widely used approaches to identifying conservation priorities, including unstructured expert judgements, criteria-based systems such as Key Biodiversity Areas, and representation of biodiversity features. The real test of conservation priorities is to demonstrate that the recommended approach will have more conservation impact (more avoided loss of biodiversity) than alternative approaches. This testing approach is amendable to spatio-temporal modelling, and we give examples of how this has been done in the past and how it could be done more effectively in the future. Explicit modelling is essential for evidence-informed decisions, and is superior in several ways to the implicit, untested models in the heads of scientists, policy makers, and protected area managers. Explicit modelling would also bring conservation into line with fields that recognise the dangers of misallocating resources and applying mistaken policies, such as medicine and economics.

Pressey, R.L., Weeks, R,. & Gurney, G.G. From displacement activities to evidence-informed decisions in conservation. 2017. Biological Conservation 212(A):337-348. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.06.009

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