How to ensure conservation actions are collectively going in the right direction?
Sometimes when I think about conservation in my head, a puzzle comes to mind. A puzzle with different color pieces, and various shapes, but forming a global image. The final global image, however, remains confusing and incomplete. For now, there are only a few connections between different pieces, and researchers and conservationists are increasingly recognizing the need to connect them. To see the full picture. As holistically as possible.
With so much scientific research being published, small and large conservation actions, spatial management, and different policies, how can we make sure this is adding up and taking us somewhere? How can we measure, and prove the effect those actions are actually having on improving biodiversity, slowing down climate change, and improving people’s livelihoods?
There is no clear answer for that, and I guess researchers are finding different metrics and analyzing and assembling different datasets to find the answer. To analyze those we need big data. It is possible to combine qualitative information with climate change models, for instance. To have new research and projects on gathering the “state of the art” of conservation and crossing it with environmental modeling, policies, biodiversity and a multitude of other parameters such as economic costs are of fundamental importance. This is to ensure we focus our time and effort on the right actions.
Linking those data together in a logical way is an ongoing challenge for scientists. But meeting high-level biodiversity targets requires to be aligned with climate and other actions: there are strong synergies but also tradeoffs and combined risks. For answering those we require interdisciplinarity, we need open and shared data from researchers and we need to get a full picture of what is happening all around.
Especially with the bleak results most research shows on the impact of habitat loss, climate change, and overexploitation of species and ecological extinction, we need to know exactly where and how to maximize and improve ongoing efforts. We need knowledge brokers. That can link different kinds of sciences to better understand the whole picture and create the most effective conservation outcomes.