A manifesto for predictive conservation

If efforts to tackle biodiversity loss and its impact on human wellbeing are to be successful, conservation must learn from other fields which use predictive methods to foresee shocks and pre-empt their impacts in the face of uncertainty, such as military studies, public health and finance. Despite a long history of using predictive models to understand the dynamics of ecological systems and human disturbance, conservationists do not systematically apply predictive approaches when designing and implementing behavioural interventions. This is an important omission because human behaviour is the underlying cause of current widespread biodiversity loss. Here, we critically assess how predictive

Widespread shortfalls in protected area resourcing undermine efforts to conserve biodiversity

Protected areas (PAs) are a key tool in efforts to safeguard biodiversity against increasing anthropogenic threats. As signatories to the 2011–2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, 196 nations pledged support for expansion in the extent of the global PA estate and the quality of PA management. While this has resulted in substantial increases in PA designations, many sites lack the resources needed to guarantee effective biodiversity conservation. Using management reports from 2167 PAs (with an area representing 23% of the global terrestrial PA estate), we demonstrate that less than a quarter of these PAs report having adequate resources in terms of staffing and budget. Using data on the geog

Quantifying biases in marine‐protected‐area placement relative to abatable threats

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a critical defense against biodiversity loss in the world's oceans, but to realize near‐term conservation benefits, they must be established where major threats to biodiversity occur and can be mitigated. We quantified the degree to which MPA establishment has targeted stoppable threats (i.e., threats that can be abated through effectively managed MPAs alone) by combining spatially explicit marine biodiversity threat data in 2008 and 2013 and information on the location and potential of MPAs to halt threats. We calculated an impact metric to determine whether countries are protecting proportionally more high‐ or low‐threat ecoregions and compared observed va

The mesoscavenger release hypothesis and implications for ecosystem and human well‐being

Many apex scavenger species, including nearly all obligate scavengers, are in a state of rapid decline and there is growing evidence these declines can drastically alter ecological food webs. Our understanding of how apex scavengers regulate populations of mesoscavengers, those less‐efficient scavengers occupying mid‐trophic levels, is improving; yet, there has been no comprehensive evaluation of the evidence around the competitive release of these species by the loss of apex scavengers. Here we present current evidence that supports the mesoscavenger release hypothesis, the increase in mesoscavengers and increase in carrion in the face of declining apex scavengers. We provide two models of

Last chance for Madagascar’s biodiversity

Madagascar’s recently elected president ran on a platform of improving the economy and raising people out of poverty. We suggest that addressing the precipitous decline of biodiversity will help to deliver this commitment, and we lay out ways in which President Rajoelina could firmly put the country on a trajectory towards sustainable growth. Read full story here.

The impact of climate change and urban growth on urban climate and heat stress in a subtropical city

Urban residents face increasing risk of heat stress due to the combined impact of climate change and intensification of the urban heat island (UHI) associated with urban growth. Considering the combined effect of urban growth and climate change is vital to understanding how temperatures in urban areas will change in the future. This study investigated the impact of urban growth and climate change on the UHI and heat stress in a subtropical city (Brisbane, Australia) in the present day (1991–2000) and medium term (2041–2050; RCP8.5) during summer. A control and urban growth scenario was used to compare the temperature increase from climate change alone with the temperature increase from clima

Protected area targets post-2020

In 2010, Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020, and its 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, to catalyze national and international conservation efforts and reverse negative biodiversity trends. With the plan nearing an end, and attention turning toward a post-2020 biodiversity framework, it is timely to assess the strengths, weaknesses, and effectiveness of the Aichi Targets. Aichi Target 11, concerned with establishing effective and representative networks of protected areas (PAs) by 2020, has attracted considerable interest owing to widespread recognition of the pivotal role that appropriately situated and well-managed PAs

A composite measure of habitat loss for entire assemblages of species

Habitat destruction is among the greatest threats facing biodiversity, and it affects common and threatened species alike. However, metrics for communicating its impacts typically overlook the nonthreatened component of assemblages. This risks the loss of habitat going unreported for species that comprise the majority of assemblages. We adapted a widely used measure for summarizing researcher output (the h index) to provide a metric that describes natural habitat loss for entire assemblages, inclusive of threatened and nonthreatened species. For each of 447 Australian native terrestrial bird species, we combined information on their association with broad vegetation groups with distributiona

Restoration priorities to achieve the global protected area target

With much of Earth's surface already heavily impacted by humans, there is a need to understand where restoration is required to achieve global conservation goals. Here, we show that at least 1.9 million km2 of land, spanning 190 (27%) terrestrial ecoregions and 114 countries, needs restoration to achieve the current 17% global protected area target (Aichi Target 11). Restoration targeted on lightly modified land could recover up to two‐thirds of the shortfall, which would have an opportunity cost impact on agriculture of at least $205 million per annum (average of $159/km2). However, 64 (9%) ecoregions, located predominately in Southeast Asia, will require the challenging task of restoring a

What are the barriers to successful community-based climate change adaptation? A review of grey lite

Across the Global South, community-based adaptation (CBA) projects are increasingly being implemented in an effort to respond effectively and sustainably to the impacts of climate change, with a particular focus on people’s livelihoods. Despite an increase in the number of CBA projects being implemented, detailed analysis and evaluation of their efficacy and the barriers faced in achieving successful outcomes is lacking. This study draws on an analysis of grey literature (i.e. project and donor reports) to explore the barriers faced in achieving effective CBA. An extensive global search of online project evaluations yielded 25 documents comprising 69 projects from which this analysis is base

Retention and restoration priorities for climate adaptation in a multi-use landscape

Retaining and restoring habitat in areas that will remain climatically suitable through time is a key strategy for helping species' adapt to climate change - particularly in multi-use landscapes where species' find it difficult to track suitable climates. We advance on existing climate-smart conservation planning studies to identify retention and restoration priorities for potential climate change refugia sites in a vast multi-use landscape. We illustrate our approach for Australia's Great Dividing Range (GDR), where the entire habitat of 26 vertebrate species – including 11 endemics – will be climatically unsuitable by the year 2085 under a high emissions scenario. We developed two planning

Identifying global centers of unsustainable commercial harvesting of species

Overexploitation is one of the main threats to biodiversity, but the intensity of this threat varies geographically. We identified global concentrations, on land and at sea, of 4543 species threatened by unsustainable commercial harvesting. Regions under high-intensity threat (based on accessibility on land and on fishing catch at sea) cover 4.3% of the land and 6.1% of the seas and contain 82% of all species threatened by unsustainable harvesting and >80% of the ranges of Critically Endangered species threatened by unsustainable harvesting. Currently, only 16% of these regions are covered by protected areas on land and just 6% at sea. Urgent actions are needed in these centers of unsustaina

How to send a finch extinct

Australia’s high species extinction rate shows no sign of abating, with at least three vertebrate extinctions recorded within the last decade. In each case, scientists have published ‘post-mortems’ examining the context of these recent extinctions. By tracing the decline of a once-widespread and common bird to the point that it has disappeared from over 80% of its original range, and describing the circumstances under which habitat loss continues to be approved despite its formal protection, we present a ‘pre-mortem’ for the endangered, and endemic, southern black-throated finch (Poephila cincta cincta). The southern black-throated finch has suffered extensive habitat loss historically, much

Conservation implications of ecological responses to extreme weather and climate events

Many conservation efforts now focus on mitigating biodiversity loss due to climate change. While a focus on impacts from mean, long‐term changes in climate is warranted, the vast majority of conservation plans largely ignore another key factor of climate change—changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather and climate events. A typology of the full range and severity of ecological responses to extreme events would help underpin tracking of their impacts. Read full story here.

Metrics of progress in the understanding and management of threats to Australian birds

Although evidence‐based approaches have become commonplace for determining the success of conservation measures for the management of threatened taxa, there are no standard metrics for assessing progress in research or management. We developed 5 metrics to meet this need for threatened taxa and to quantify the need for further action and effective alleviation of threats. These metrics (research need, research achievement, management need, management achievement, and percent threat reduction) can be aggregated to examine trends for an individual taxon or for threats across multiple taxa. We tested the utility of these metrics by applying them to Australian threatened birds, which appears to b

Hotspots of human impact on threatened terrestrial vertebrates

Conserving threatened species requires identifying where across their range they are being impacted by threats, yet this remains unresolved across most of Earth. Here, we present a global analysis of cumulative human impacts on threatened species by using a spatial framework that jointly considers the co-occurrence of eight threatening processes and the distribution of 5,457 terrestrial vertebrates. We show that impacts to species are widespread, occurring across 84% of Earth’s surface, and identify hotspots of impacted species richness and coolspots of unimpacted species richness. Almost one-quarter of assessed species are impacted across >90% of their distribution, and approximately 7% are

Brokering trust in citizen science

Citizen science (CS) information requires systematic review that incorporates a range of interests and concerns. Yet, there has been little research on what might constitute reviewing best practice to ensure CS is trusted by contributors and users of the data. Insights from a survey of all 1134 reviewers who curate the global eBird Project highlight the knowledge-brokering work involved to ensure CS data are trusted by both citizens and science. Drawing on scholarship focused on key drivers of useable knowledge for natural resource decision-making, we consider CS reviewing best practice to ensure CS can be useful to the producers and users of this knowledge. We find that CS reviewers need to

Manage forests as protection against warming.

We disagree with those who caution against relying on forests as a solution to global warming until the warming effects of trees themselves are better understood (see Nature 565, 280–282; 2019). Read full story here.

Madagascar: Crime threatens biodiversity.

Madagascar’s new president, Andry Rajoelina, was elected on a promise to improve living standards for the millions who live in poverty (1). To achieve this goal, he must address the declining rule of law. Madagascar fell eight places in the Rule of Law Index between 2016 and 2018 (2), and it is 155th of 180 countries listed in the Corruption Perceptions Index (3). Weak governance slows development by reducing the willingness of citizens and foreign companies to invest (4). Since his election, President Rajoelina has expressed a desire to make Madagascar a model of conservation and a destina- tion for ecotourism (5). The solutions to the country’s poverty—strengthening Madagascar’s government

Improved management is more important than sparing-sharing strategies for tropical forests

Tropical forests are globally significant for both biodiversity conservation and the production of economically valuable wood products. Two contrasting approaches have been suggested to simultaneously produce timber and conserve biodiversity; one partitions forests to deliver these objectives separately (sparing), the other integrates both objectives in the same location (sharing). To date, the ‘sparing or sharing’ debate has focused on agricultural landscapes, with scant attention paid to forest management. Here we explored the sparing-to-sharing continuum through spatial optimisations with set economic returns for the forests of East Kalimantan, Indonesia – a global biodiversity hotspot. W

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