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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Synopsis of science – more likely to move habitat and wildlife managers to action

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Conservation Biology

The effect of scientific evidence on conservation practitioners’ management decisions

Jessica C. Walsh*, Lynn V. Dicks and William J. Sutherland Article first published online: 7 AUG 2014 DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12370

Volume 29, Issue 1, pages 88–98, February 2015

A major justification of environmental management research is that it helps practitioners, yet previous studies show it is rarely used to inform their decisions.
We tested whether conservation practitioners focusing on bird management were willing to use a synopsis of relevant scientific literature to inform their management decisions. This allowed us to examine whether the limited use of scientific information in management is due to a lack of access to the scientific literature or whether it is because practitioners are either not interested or unable to incorporate the research into their decisions. In on-line surveys, we asked 92 conservation managers, predominantly from Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, to provide opinions on 28 management techniques that could be applied to reduce predation on birds. We asked their opinions before and after giving them a summary of the literature about the interventions’ effectiveness. We scored the overall effectiveness and certainty of evidence for each intervention through an expert elicitation process—the Delphi method. We used the effectiveness scores to assess the practitioners’ level of understanding and awareness of the literature. On average, each survey participant changed their likelihood of using 45.7% of the interventions after reading the synopsis of the evidence. They were more likely to implement effective interventions and avoid ineffective actions, suggesting that their intended future management strategies may be more successful than current practice. More experienced practitioners were less likely to change their management practices than those with less experience, even though they were not more aware of the existing scientific information than less experienced practitioners. The practitioners’ willingness to change their management choices when provided with summarized scientific evidence suggests that improved accessibility to scientific information would benefit conservation management outcomes.

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