Advancing the Use and Availability of the Science Needed for Evidence-based Conservation Decisions
The Evidence-Based Conservation Working Group will build on the results of a previous SNAPP-funded mapping project that – for the first time – documented the evidence of the impact of conservation on human well-being. To build the map, members of the Working Group searched and assessed 32,000 potential studies to generate a global “evidence map” of 1,100 relevant studies.
The work highlighted three primary issues:
- evidence documenting relationships between conservation interventions and human well-being outcomes likely does exist, but has not been broadly synthesized to meaningfully inform conservation policy and practice.
- the time required to locate and characterize this information is substantial.
- the distribution, and quality of existing evidence is inconsistent, with evidence varying considerably between different nature-people linkages, countries, biomes and study design.
Some linkages, such as economic outcomes of protected areas, have been extensively studied, while other linkages such as health impacts of conservation remain sparse. Furthermore, few studies use rigorous approaches, e.g., experimental or quasi-experimental study designs, with significant number of studies relying on qualitative data from small sample sizes.
To overcome these problems, the Working Group will further synthesize trends within the evidence base, and test innovative approaches to facilitating utilization of existing evidence. Specifically, we will address three objectives:
- In-depth exploration and analyses of data and trends within the existing map database, specifically on occurrence and quality of evidence available across prevalent theories of change linking nature conservation to human well-being impacts;
- Development of a probabilistic model to more efficiently, accurately and rapidly identify, synthesize and update evidence from online publication databases and search engines to create a dynamic evidence tool;
- Design and pilot mechanisms for integrating evidence into decision making of different audiences, representing three key groups: donors, researchers and practitioners, based upon their explicit needs and opportunities for scientific evidence on nature-people linkages
The Working Group will develop three case studies to explore how and when the utilization of evidence can have maximum value.
For donors and policymakers, the Working Group will work with the World Bank’s Program on Forests (PROFOR) to address demand for evidence to demonstrate the contribution of forest conservation to poverty alleviation, such as how financing sustainable forest management affects local livelihoods. Of particular interest is evidence about how forests may help provide pathways out of poverty, not just resources for day-to-day subsistence or safety nets in times of ecological or social stress.
For researchers, the Working Group will explore how different users within the SNAPP network might best utilize our evidence map in their decisions based upon current needs. Understanding and utilization of existing evidence on nature-people linkages has the potential to inform and guide research efforts by SNAPP in several ways: validation of assumptions stated by proposed SNAPP working group, prioritization of knowledge gaps that might be filled by a new SNAPP working group, an evidence base to support in-depth syntheses by current working groups, and a dynamic dataset by which to track SNAPP’s progress.
For practitioners, the Working Group will examine a series of incentive programs instituted by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Incentives can be directly associated with the desired action (Individual Tradable Quotas that ensure fishers a meaningful part of the catch), or provided as compensation for adoption of the desired action (livestock insurance to halt retaliatory killing of lions). Our case study will work with WCS programs to understand needs on program impacts specifically related to incentive-related interventions.
The research required to achieve these objectives will require mixed qualitative and quantitative methods and bring together expertise from evaluation, evidence synthesis, program theory, machine learning, computer science, information science, and statistics, and knowledge of international development and social dimensions of conservation.
Meet the Evidence-Based Conservation Team