Why most conservation monitoring is, but need not be, a waste of time

ArticleinJournal of Environmental Management 78(2):194-9 · February 2006with80 Reads
DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2005.04.016 · Source: PubMed
Ecological conservation monitoring programmes abound at various organisational and spatial levels from species to ecosystem. Many of them suffer, however, from the lack of details of goal and hypothesis formulation, survey design, data quality and statistical power at the start. As a result, most programmes are likely to fail to reach the necessary standard of being capable of rejecting a false null hypothesis with reasonable power. Results from inadequate monitoring are misleading for their information quality and are dangerous because they create the illusion that something useful has been done. We propose that conservation agencies and those funding monitoring work should require the demonstration of adequate power at the outset of any new monitoring scheme.
    • "Monitoring is a fundamental part of resource management, providing information on the state of the system which can be used to detect the impacts of natural and anthropogenic stressors, assess the potential recovery of the system, and measure the success of management interventions (Day, 2008; English et al., 1997; Legg and Nagy, 2006). Ecological monitoring of coral reefs, defined as repeated surveys collecting data on attributes such as abundance of fish and coral, has been conducted since reef survey techniques were first described in the 1970s (Jackson et al., 2014; Risk, 1999 Risk, , 1972 ). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Coral reef monitoring programmes exist in all regions of the world, recording reef attributes such as coral cover, fish biomass and macroalgal cover. Given the cost of such monitoring programs, and the degraded state of many of the world?s reefs, understanding how reef monitoring data can be used to shape management decisions for coral reefs is a high priority. However, there is no general guide to understanding the ecological implications of the data in a format that can trigger a management response. We attempt to provide such a guide for interpreting the temporal trends in 41 coral reef monitoring attributes, recorded by seven of the largest reef monitoring programmes. We show that only a small subset of these attributes is required to identify the stressors that have impacted a reef (i.e. provide a diagnosis), as well as to estimate the likely recovery potential (prognosis). Two of the most useful indicators, turf algal canopy height and coral colony growth rate are not commonly measured, and we strongly recommend their inclusion in reef monitoring. The diagnosis and prognosis system that we have developed may help guide management actions and provides a foundation for further development as biological and ecological insights continue to grow.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2017
    • "Put differently , it indicates that the data collected from habitat impact assessments is largely a policy driven exercise, and is not necessarily perceived as complementary to traditional management approaches in the wider countryside. Addressing this gap will likely require consideration of how frameworks for assessment schemes can be better designed to address local management interests, while adhering to (inter)national policy and legislation (Legg and Nagy, 2006; Lengyel et al., 2008;; Lindenmayer and Likens, 2011). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Monitoring is one of the key tools employed to help understand the condition of the natural environment and inform the development of appropriate management actions. While international conventions encourage the use of standardised methods, the link between the information monitoring provides and local management needs is frequently overlooked. This problem is further exacerbated when monitoring is employed in areas where there are divergent interests among stakeholders in land use and management. Such problems are found in the management of wild deer across Scotland, where monitoring, in the form of habitat impact assessments, have been introduced as an innovation in sustainable deer management. However, the uptake of habitat impact assessments has been limited. We used deer management in Scotland as a case study to explore whether reinventing habitat impact assessments, and hosting the system on a familiar digital platform (a mobile phone) could help to remove perceived barriers to the implementation of assessments. Using the diffusion of innovations as a theoretical framework three sets of workshops were conducted with participants representing different stakeholder interests. While the proposed digital system did address perceived barriers to the conduct of habitat monitoring, in addition it revealed underlying concerns on the use and purpose of habitat monitoring as a tool in land management. Such concerns indicate friction between scientific and management perspectives, which need to be considered and addressed if monitoring is to become more widely acceptable as a tool to inform the management of natural resources.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2016
    • "Planning this ahead of data collection also allows for alignment of resources necessary to ensure that the analysis is conducted in a timely manner. One should avoid a long investment in collecting monitoring data only to discover years into it that the data do not support the proposed analysis nor answer the motivating question(s) (Legg and Nagy 2006). There are potentially three stages of analysis, and fitting models is just part of one stage. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Designing and implementing natural resource monitoring is a challenging endeavor undertaken by many agencies, NGOs, and citizen groups worldwide. Yet many monitoring programs fail to deliver useful information for a variety of administrative (staffing, documentation, and funding) or technical (sampling design and data analysis) reasons. Programs risk failure if they lack a clear motivating problem or question, explicit objectives linked to this problem or question, and a comprehensive conceptual model of the system under study. Designers must consider what “success” looks like from a resource management perspective, how desired outcomes translate to appropriate attributes to monitor, and how they will be measured. All such efforts should be filtered through the question “Why is this important?” Failing to address these considerations will produce a program that fails to deliver the desired information. We addressed these issues through creation of a “road map” for designing and implementing a monitoring program, synthesizing multiple aspects of a monitoring program into a single, overarching framework. The road map emphasizes linkages among core decisions to ensure alignment of all components, from problem framing through technical details of data collection and analysis, to program administration. Following this framework will help avoid common pitfalls, keep projects on track and budgets realistic, and aid in program evaluations. The road map has proved useful for monitoring by individuals and teams, those planning new monitoring, and those reviewing existing monitoring and for staff with a wide range of technical and scientific skills.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2016
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