Why most conservation monitoring is, but need not be, a waste of time. J Env Manag

School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Crew Building, King's Buildings, Mayfield Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JN, Scotland.
Journal of Environmental Management (Impact Factor: 2.72). 02/2006; 78(2):194-9. 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.

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    • "While monitoring biodiversity to track changes in key ecological attributes over time is an important element of evidence-based management (Magurran et al., 2010), it is often poorly implemented. Poorly designed or implemented monitoring programs can lead to important ecosystem changes going undetected (Legg and Nagy, 2006). Even when changes are detected, the failure to link monitoring programs to management actions can mean decision makers fail to respond to observed declines (Lindenmayer et al., 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Conservation managers face complex decisions about if, when and how to intervene in managed systems. To support these decisions, approaches are needed that utilise the best available evidence to guide actions when a system is moving into an undesirable state. Assigning some form of critical threshold that if crossed would trigger action (a decision trigger) is growing in favour in the scientific community. Likewise, there is increasing interest from the conservation management community in using decision triggers as part of evidence-based management. In this article, we reinforce calls for the use of decision triggers and highlight how they can complement many approaches for evidence-based conservation. There are many benefits to using decision triggers to link evidence to action. For management organisations, decision triggers offer a way to improve the clarity and transparency of management decisions. There has been recent progress in developing methods to set robust decision triggers that utilise rigorous biological monitoring data, such as receiver operating characteristic curves, control charts and participatory modelling. When monitoring data are not readily available, approaches that set decision triggers based on utility thresholds (i.e., value-based judgements) or expert elicitation methods, and refine trigger points over time, hold promise. Despite the many benefits, there remain challenges for both developing and implementing decision triggers. There is a pressing need for a process that can guide organisations in setting defensible decision triggers based on the best available science, and that can be used for a wide range of management contexts. We believe decision triggers can be integrated into existing management processes within organisations to improve decisions about when and how to act to protect biodiversity, and to support managers to achieve evidence-based conservation.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2016 · Biological Conservation
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    • "Quality environmental monitoring goes hand in hand with good survey design (Legg and Nagy [2]), and developing efficient and effective surveys for environmental systems is a fast evolving area of statistics. One principle of survey designs for environmental studies is that a biological characteristic observed in one area is likely to be observed in an adjacent area. "
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    ABSTRACT: Spatially balanced sampling is becoming a popular design for surveys in biological and environmental management. For large scale surveys, where the region of interest is too large to visit every site, a sample is taken from a selection of sites. The process used to select these sites is called the survey design. Spatially balanced designs ensure there is spatial coverage of the entire survey area. The resultant sample should be representative of the population of interest.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015
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    • "Risk premiums have been found to be stockspecific (Fay et al., 2012), and methods to accurately represent the risk between tier levels are currently being developed (Little et al., 2014). Whether the financial costs of either monitoring or assessment could be better used on other measures of protection and conservation (McDonald-Madden et al., 2010; Legg and Nagy, 2006) or are cost-effective (Boyce et al., 2012) are important management questions. Trade-off analyses on marine ecosystems have been examined (Fulton et al., 2014), but have typically focused on the mean or expected cost outcome without consideration of the more extreme outcomes that could eventuate. "
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    ABSTRACT: Fisheries management operates in an environment characterized by multiple risks. These risks are often complementary and can be traded off against each other. An important goal for managers is to develop strategies to minimize the overall risk exposure at minimal cost. We show a simple model that quantifies a range of risks faced by fisheries management agencies in terms of long-term expected budgetary expenditure. The model includes not only the cost a management agency would be expected to incur from overfishing a stock, or from being seen to overfish it, but also the social cost incurred from not achieving its objectives, such as the opportunity cost of foregoing catches and economic returns. These costs can be controlled by adjusting the biomass level targeted by management, or increasing expenditures for data collection to improve the precision of biomass estimates. The overall risk, expressed as the long-term total expected cost to a management agency, depends strongly on the fisheries management objectives, and the emphasis on conservation or economic motives. In general, management under a conservation-oriented objective would reduce risk either by increasing target biomass levels or by expenditure on monitoring and assessment, while a catch-focused objective would seek to lower management costs by reducing expenditure on data collection and assessment. Increased natural stock variability affects the risk of overfishing, and long-term expected costs as the ability to make a meaningful estimate of biomass declines. Management of catch-focused fisheries would reduce the biomass target as stock variability increases, because the benefit of catches are seen to outweigh the cost, or risk of being overfished. The model provides the basis for more extensive risk analyses, and serves as a simple lesson that the consequences of reducing the short-term costs associated with managing a fishery can come with a concomitant increase in overall risk.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · ICES Journal of Marine Science
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