Gateway Gazette

Mind the Information Gap: New Study Maps Evidence of Conservation Impacts on Human Wellbeing

Infographic Heat MapParis/Arlington, Va. ­ Researchers highlight the merits of a new technique to ensure research findings are more visible and accessible, reveals an article released in Nature today.

Focusing on nature conservation efforts and their links to human well-being, an international team of experts from the field of conservation, evidence synthesis and international development has developed an ‘evidence map’ that compiles information on policy impacts within existing studies, synthesizes key trends and highlights areas in need of further work.

The approach has been led by a Science for Nature and People (SNAP) Partnership working group which includes researchers from Conservation International, UCLA, the University of Exeter Medical School, The Nature Conservancy, University of Illinois and the World Bank.

With thousands of reports produced every year assessing the effects of different policies and programs, worrying evidence suggests that much of this valuable information is never read.

This new approach seeks to redress this trend by providing maps for wayfaring researchers and policy makers, signposting sources of evidence to ensure we make use of ever-mounting analyses.

The authors located and categorized more than 1000 primary research studies that document relationships between nature conservation policies and programs and human well-being including economic and material outcomes, health, education, culture and social relations to create an interactive tool that easily aggregates these data, confirms well-studied linkages, and highlights prominent gaps. The team found that while over 25% of studies examined the linkages between protected areas and economic well-being, fewer than 2% evaluated impacts on human health.

The evidence map (available here) shows the number of studies undertaken on certain nature conservation initiatives and their effects on human well-being, in order to better aggregate relevant scientific evidence on policy and program impacts. The map depicts the number of studies concerning initiatives like area protection and resource management and corresponding well-being outcomes such as education and social capital. The researchers found that human health concerns and cultural values are among the least-studied impacts of conservation on people.

“The current evidence on the impacts and effectiveness of conservation policies is scattered, unfocused and inaccessible to those who need it,” said Dr. Madeleine McKinnon, Senior Director for Monitoring and Evaluation at Conservation International. “The map provides researchers and policymakers a picture of what has and has not been studied in regard to the connection between conservation and human well-being.”

“Providing evidence for the linkage between nature conservation and human well-being is a cornerstone of the Science for Nature and People partnership,” said Craig Groves, Executive Director of the SNAP Partnership. “Using the evidence map, we can better identify new SNAP working groups that may be able to fill in the gaps where little information exists and evaluate the nature of the relationships between conservation interventions and human well-being.”

“There are increasing numbers of studies and reports on environmental initiatives and policy, but these can be hard to locate and it may be difficult to establish the best ones to use,” said Ruth Garside, Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School.  “By identifying and categorizing existing evidence and presenting it in a concise form, those who need it can rapidly find and use it; so to better target and coordinate research and practice.”

Already seeing the value of the information synthesized by this study, in a second phase of the SNAP Evidence-based Conservation working group, the World Bank is planning to use the evidence on forest biomes and poverty linkages to better inform their strategic decisions.  “Demonstration of this tool is especially timely as the international community grapples with how best to achieve the recently launched 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. “Evidence maps like the one we’ve created can provide vital input into policy processes about what works and under what conditions and also help track progress toward shared goals.” By making this evidence map available to other researchers and decision makers SNAP opens the door to better understanding the effects of conservation impacts on other areas of sustainability such as renewable energy and food security, to name a few.

Source Conservation International

Related Articles

Leave a Reply