Treasure Hunting Tool: New Data Portal for Making Better Conservation Decisions

New Data Portal Helps Organize Scientific Literature on Linkages between Conserving Nature and Improving People’s Lives

  • Easy-to-use online tool allows policymakers and practitioners to quickly comb through mountains of data to make better conservation decisions
  • The Evidence for Nature and People Data Portal can be accessed HERE

A working group of the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) launched a new online tool that will help policymakers and practitioners easily access and synthesize evidence from thousands of available datasets on human well-being and natural ecosystems to make better conservation decisions.

The Evidence for Nature and People and Data Portal was demonstrated during the North American Congress for Conservation Biology (NACCB), a society committed to advancing the science and practice of conserving Earth’s biodiversity.

The SNAPP Evidence-Based Conservation working group identified a significant barrier to people and organizations aiming to solve the world’s conservation problems: how to distill critical information from the mountains of existing data. Making good decisions requires evidence about past experiences of what works and what doesn’t, but there currently exists no easy way to comb through the literature and utilize the relevant datasets.

The SNAPP working group solves this issue by making this available data readily accessible and explorable. In order to increase the use of existing scientific evidence for conservation decision-making, the interactive data portal allows users to filter, explore and visualize desired information using a policy-relevant framework.

The Evidence for Nature and People Data Portal can be accessed at www.natureandpeopleevidence.org.

“The world is faced with environmental crises ranging from pollution, to overfishing, to climate change,” said Samantha Cheng of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at UC Santa Barbara, and a SNAPP post-doctoral research fellow. “The actions that we take to address these issues will have long-lasting and widespread effects, which if negative, will do more harm than good. Making decisions based on evidence for what works and what doesn’t work is absolutely critical if we want to achieve successful conservation.”

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Governments and organizations are increasingly pursuing conservation policies to benefit both human well-being and natural ecosystems. Thus, practitioners and policymakers need critical information to determine the best course of action to achieve positive outcomes. Despite a critical need, the evidence to support these decisions is not always readily available or succinctly summarized.

Given the limited amount of resources available for conservation, practitioners often do not consider the larger body of evidence when choosing a course of action. There is a strong desire amongst practitioners to use more evidence, however, they indicate that they lack the time to look for and synthesize it and the ability to access it.

The evidence to make conservation decisions is either hard to find, hard to access and/or hard to understand. Much of the information that conservationists seek are PDFs locked up behind paywalls, buried in organization websites, and lurking on hard drives never to see the light of day. Even when systematic maps and reviews are open access, there is still not an intuitive way to explore and obtain necessary information.

The new SNAPP tool operates as a flexible, graphical data portal for the links between conservation interventions and human well-being outcomes that allows users to download desired information as well as charts and summaries.

It collates information from over 1,000 studies in an easy to interpret way and visualizes it for quick uptake. Users can filter the information by intervention and outcome type, geographic location, biome and study design – allowing them to hone in on regions and ecosystems of interest and gain quick information on the abundance and general quality of information for specific linkages and areas. The tool also offers the ability to download full datasets and bibliographic information.

Portrait of a traditional farmer (campesino) in the Andes region of Colombia, South America.
Photo: ©Diego Ochoa/TNC
Portrait of a traditional farmer (campesino) in the Andes region of Colombia, South America.

 

“This tool will be enormously useful to researchers, practitioners, and policymakers alike, especially in the context of efforts to work toward the new Sustainable Development Goals,” said Daniel Miller, Assistant Professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois and former World Bank Program on Forests (PROFOR) staff member. “The portal is a ‘one-stop shop’ for information on what we know about how different conservation interventions affect human-well being. It will save time and money not only by quickly showing what is currently known, but also by highlighting key evidence gaps.”

This type of portal currently exists and is widely used for a variety of physical, biological and ecological data. For example, the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s GenBank is the standard repository for genetic information, as well as similar databases including Dryad (genetic information), the Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity (environmental and ecological datasets), and efforts from organizations such as DataOne and the National Science Foundation. A few data portals, such as Conservation Evidence, contain information on conservation actions and biological outcomes, but until now no similar database or data portal has existed for the linkages between conservation and human well-being information.

Without reliable support, conservation practitioners could be making decisions that result in bad outcomes for nature and people and waste valuable resources. This has severe and irreversible consequences for the health of the ecosystem involved and for the people who depend on it for their livelihoods and well-being. In addition, valuable research goes unread and underutilized. The tool provides a quick and easy to use source to rapidly find, explore, and download data and bibliographies of relevant literature in order to make the best decisions possible.

The SNAPP Evidence-Based Conservation working group is led by researchers from Conservation International and Wildlife Conservation Society. For more information, visit: http://snappartnership.net/groups/evidence-based-conservation/.

 

SNAPP Staff

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