William J Sutherland

William J Sutherland
University of Cambridge | Cam · Department of Zoology

BSc, PhD

About

832
Publications
499,585
Reads
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52,174
Citations
Introduction
Conservation scientist interested in a wide range of conservation problems. Heavily involved in linking science and policy especially through ConservationEvidence.com
Additional affiliations
January 2008 - present
January 2007 - December 2013
University of Cambridge
January 1989 - December 2011
University of East Anglia

Publications

Publications (832)
Preprint
The use of systematic reviews to collate and summarise evidence is considered one of the great intellectual achievements of recent times. Evidence synthesis has had far-reaching impacts and has helped to inform decision-making in multiple fields. However, it also faces three problems: (i) reviews cannot be relevant to everyone, hampering decision-m...
Preprint
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There is an increasing expectation on the private sector to address biodiversity impacts and contribute towards global conservation goals. Appropriate evidence use can help businesses avoid biodiversity losses and realise gains, reduce resources wasted on ineffective or suboptimal action, whilst minimising biodiversity-related risks and securing op...
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The biodiversity of marine and coastal habitats is experiencing unprecedented change. While there are well-known drivers of these changes, such as overexploitation, climate change and pollution, there are also relatively unknown emerging issues that are poorly understood or recognized that have potentially positive or negative impacts on marine and...
Article
The management of invasive species requires analytical tools that can synthesise the increasing and complex information generated through risk assessment protocols. To that end, Fault Tree Analysis (FTA) provides a means to conceptually map all of the events leading to a particular undesired scenario with associated probabilities and uncertainty. W...
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Conservation practitioners are increasingly interested in the lessons gained through failure. While other sectors have made significant progress in learning from failure, there is currently limited consensus on how a similar transition could best be achieved in conservation, and what is required to facilitate this. One of the key enabling condition...
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Background and Research Aims: Dams impact freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity. Freshwater turtles are at direct and indirect risk due to changes caused by damming including the loss of terrestrial and aquatic nesting habitats, changes to food availability and blocking movement. Effective management of these impacts requires robust evidence in or...
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Many types of guidance documents inform conservation by providing practical recommendations for the management of species and habitats. To ensure effective decisions are made, such guidance should be based upon relevant and up-to-date evidence. We reviewed conservation guidance for mitigation and management of species and habitats in the United Kin...
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International policy is focused on increasing the proportion of the Earth’s surface that is protected for nature1,2. Although studies show that protected areas prevent habitat loss3–6, there is a lack of evidence for their effect on species’ populations: existing studies are at local scale or use simple designs that lack appropriate controls7–13. H...
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There is an urgent need to quantify the potential for conservation interventions to effectively manage the impacts of climate change on species' populations and ecological communities. In this first quantitative global assessment of biodiversity conservation interventions for climate change adaptation, we identified 77 peer-reviewed studies, includ...
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Mangroves are often cleared for aquaculture, agriculture, and coastal development despite the range of benefits for people and nature that they provide. In response to these losses, there are multiple global, and regional efforts aimed at accelerating mangrove forest restoration, resulting in many restoration projects being implemented and managed...
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Widespread afforestation is a crucial component of climate mitigation strategies worldwide. This presents a significant opportunity for biodiversity conservation if forests are appropriately managed. Within forests, structural and habitat diversity are known to be critical for biodiversity but pragmatic management recommendations are lacking. We ma...
Preprint
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Early detection and rapid response are cornerstones of effective invasive species management. However, these strategies can be challenging to implement when the arrival of a non-native species has not been predicted, as may be the case when a species is discovered large distances from known populations. Brown marmorated stink bugs Halyomorpha halys...
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Evidence-based approaches are key for underpinning effective conservation practice, but major gaps in the evidence of the effectiveness of interventions limit their use. Conservation practitioners could make major contributions to filling these gaps but often lack the time, funding, or capacity to do so properly. Many funders target the delivery of...
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Wildlife conservation is severely limited by funding. Therefore, to maximize biodiversity outcomes, assessing financial costs of interventions is as important as assessing effectiveness. We reviewed the reporting of costs in studies testing the effectiveness of conservation interventions: 13.3% of the studies provided numeric costs, and 8.8% report...
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1. In Christie et al. (2019), we used simulations to quantitatively compare the bias of commonly used study designs in ecology and conservation. Based on these simulations, we proposed ‘accuracy weights’ as a potential way to account for study design validity in meta-analytic weighting methods. Pescott and Stewart (2022) raised concerns that these...
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An increasing number of species are facing unprecedented levels of threat to their long‐term survival due to the direct and indirect impacts of climate change. Key opportunities for science to inform wildlife management are linked to increasing our understanding of how changes in climatic conditions will impact species, as well as whether, and how,...
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Conservationists have long sought to reduce consumer demand for products from overexploited wildlife species. Health practitioners have also begun calling for reductions in the wildlife trade to reduce pandemic risk. Most wildlife‐focused demand reduction campaigns have lacked rigorous evaluations and thus their impacts remain unknown. There is thu...
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It is now clear that the routine embedding of experiments into conservation practice is essential for creating reasonably comprehensive evidence of the effectiveness of actions. However, an important barrier is the stage of identifying testable questions that are both useful but also realistic to carry out without a major research project. We ident...
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The crisis generated by the emergence and pandemic spread of COVID-19 has thrown into the global spotlight the dangers associated with novel diseases, as well as the key role of animals, especially wild animals, as potential sources of pathogens to humans. There is a widespread demand for a new relationship with wild and domestic animals, including...
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Species reliant on both the terrestrial and marine realms present a challenge for conventional species distribution models (SDMs). For such species, standard single-realm SDMs may omit key information that could result in decreased model accuracy and performance. Existing approaches to habitat suitability modeling typically do not effectively combi...
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Making the reasoning and evidence behind conservation management decisions clear and transparent is a key challenge for the conservation community. Similarly, combining evidence from diverse sources (e.g., scientific and local knowledge) into decision‐making is also difficult. Our group of conservation researchers and practitioners has co‐produced...
Article
We present the results of our 13th annual horizon scan of issues likely to impact on biodiversity conservation. Issues are either novel within the biological conservation sector or could cause a substantial step-change in impact, either globally or regionally. Our global panel of 26 scientists and practitioners identified 15 issues that we believe...
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Horizon scanning is increasingly used in conservation to systematically explore emerging policy and management issues. We present the results of a horizon scan of issues likely to impact management of Canadian protected and conserved areas over the next 5–10 years. Eighty-eight individuals participated, representing a broad community of academics,...
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The need for conservation action to be cost-effective is widely accepted and this has prompted an increased interest and effort to assess effectiveness. Assessing financial costs of conservation is equally important, yet its measurement and assessment are repeatedly identified as lacking. The healthcare sector however, has made substantial progress...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background and Research Aims Dams impact freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity. Freshwater turtles are at direct and indirect risk due to changes caused by damming including the loss of terrestrial and aquatic nesting habitats, changes to food availability and blocking movement. Effective management of these impacts requires robust evidence in ord...
Article
Full-text available
Author‐level metrics are a widely used measure of scientific success. The h‐index and its variants measure publication output (number of publications) and research impact (number of citations). They are often used to influence decisions, such as allocating funding or jobs. Here, we argue that the emphasis on publication output and impact hinders sc...
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Evidence-based decision-making is most effective with comprehensive access to scientific studies. If studies face significant publication delays or barriers, the useful information they contain may not reach decision-makers in a timely manner. This represents a potential problem for mission-oriented disciplines where access to the latest data is re...
Article
Full-text available
The widely held assumption that any important scientific information would be available in English underlies the underuse of non-English-language science across disciplines. However, non-English-language science is expected to bring unique and valuable scientific information, especially in disciplines where the evidence is patchy, and for emergent...
Preprint
Making the reasoning and evidence behind conservation decisions clear and transparent is a key challenge for the conservation community. Similarly, combining evidence from diverse sources (e.g., scientific vs non-scientific information) into decision-making is also difficult. Our group of conservation researchers and practitioners has co-produced a...
Article
There is an increasing recognition that, although the climate change and biodiversity crises are fundamentally connected, they have been primarily addressed independently and a more integrated global approach is essential to tackle these two global challenges. Nature‐based Solutions (NbS) are hailed as a pathway for promoting synergies between the...
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Societal biosecurity, measures built into everyday society to minimize risks from pests and diseases, is an important aspect of managing epidemics and pandemics. We aimed to identify societal options for reducing the transmission and spread of respiratory viruses. We used SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) as a case study...
Book
Full-text available
Does the creation of artificial reefs benefit subtidal benthic invertebrates? Is the use of organic farming instead of conventional farming beneficial to bat conservation? Does installing wildlife warning reflectors along roads benefit mammal conservation? Does the installation of exclusion and/or escape devices on fishing nets benefit marine and f...
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Climate change is forcing the redistribution of life on Earth at an unprecedented velocity1,2. Migratory birds are thought to help plants to track climate change through long-distance seed dispersal3,4. However, seeds may be consistently dispersed towards cooler or warmer latitudes depending on whether the fruiting period of a plant species coincid...
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Wetlands are critically important for biodiversity and human wellbeing, but face a range of challenges. This is especially true in the Mediterranean region, where wetlands support endemic and threatened species and remain integral to human societies, but have been severely degraded in recent decades. Here, in order to raise awareness of future chal...
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Abstract Making effective decisions in conservation requires a broad and robust evidence base describing the likely outcomes of potential actions to draw on. Such evidence is typically generated from experiments or trials that evaluate the effectiveness of actions, but for many actions evidence is missing or incomplete. We discuss how evidence can...
Preprint
Full-text available
The widely held assumption that any important scientific information would be available in English underlies the underuse of non-English-language science across disciplines. However, non-English-language science is expected to bring unique and valuable scientific information, especially in disciplines where the evidence is patchy, and for emergent...
Article
We estimated the influence of human disturbance and environmental factors on territory establishment in common ringed plovers Charadrius hiaticula and Eurasian oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus, to inform the conservation of these species. We examined a 212 km stretch of coastline in the United Kingdom in 2003, mapping all breeding pairs of both...
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The COVID‐19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on almost all aspects of human society and endeavour; the natural world and its conservation have not been spared. Through a process of expert consultation, we identified and categorised, into 19 themes and 70 sub‐themes, the ways in which biodiversity and its conservation has been or could be impact...
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Public health and safety concerns around the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 pandemic have greatly changed human behaviour. Such shifts in behaviours including travel patterns, consumerism, and energy use, are variously impacting biodiversity during the human-dominated geological epoch known as the Anthropocene. Indeed, the dramatic r...
Preprint
Full-text available
Evidence-based decision making is most effective with comprehensive access to scientific studies. If studies face delays or barriers to being published, the useful information they contain may not reach decision-makers in a timely manner. This represents a potential problem for mission-oriented disciplines where access to the latest data is paramou...
Article
Extensive afforestation is currently being widely promoted as a key nature-based solution for climate change mitigation. Fundamental to this strategy is the sequestration of carbon into long-term stable storage, either in wood products or the soil. However, the long-term effects of tree planting on soil carbon, or other soil properties, has rarely...
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1. To be effective, the next generation of conservation practitioners and managers need to be critical thinkers with a deep understanding of how to make evidence‐based decisions and of the value of evidence synthesis. 2. If, as educators, we do not make these priorities a core part of what we teach, we are failing to prepare our students to make an...
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Background Meta-analysis is often used to make generalisations across all available evidence at the global scale. But how can these global generalisations be used for evidence-based decision making at the local scale, if the global evidence is not perceived to be relevant to local decisions? We show how an interactive method of meta-analysis—dynami...
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It is widely accepted that nature conservation practice benefits from incorporating scientific evidence into decision-making. However, even when the evidence is already collated, the task of applying evidence to all of the decisions undertaken by conservation professionals can seem overwhelming. The apparent magnitude of this task may deter individ...
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Species monitoring, defined here as the repeated, systematic collection of data to detect long‐term changes in the populations of wild species, is a vital component of conservation practice and policy. We created a database of nearly 1,200 schemes to review spatial, temporal, taxonomic and methodological patterns in global species monitoring. We es...
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Multiple national and international trends and drivers are radically changing what biological security means for the United Kingdom (UK). New technologies present novel opportunities and challenges, and globalisation has created new pathways and increased the speed, volume and routes by which organisms can spread. The UK Biological Security Strateg...
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Building trust in science and evidence-based decision-making depends heavily on the credibility of studies and their findings. Researchers employ many different study designs that vary in their risk of bias to evaluate the true effect of interventions or impacts. Here, we empirically quantify, on a large scale, the prevalence of different study des...
Article
Full-text available
Building trust in science and evidence-based decision-making depends heavily on the credibility of studies and their findings. Researchers employ many different study designs that vary in their risk of bias to evaluate the true effect of interventions or impacts. Here, we empirically quantify, on a large scale, the prevalence of different study des...
Article
Full-text available
Background Invasive alien plant species often have negative environmental and social impacts, such as loss of biodiversity and alteration of ecosystem services. As a result, managing the introduction, establishment, and abundance of invasive species is a major priority. To do this effectively, we need evidence on the effect of management interventi...