Moving from decision to action in conservation science

Authors: A Wright; R F Bernard; B Mosher; K O'Donnell; T Braunagel; Graziella V DiRenzo; Jill Fleming; C Shafer; A B Brand; E Zipkin; Evan HC Grant
Contribution Number: 756

Biodiversity loss is a major threat to the integrity of ecosystems and is projected to
worsen, yet the path to successful conservation remains elusive. Decision support
frameworks (DSFs) are increasingly applied by resource managers to navigate the
complexity, uncertainty, and differing socio-ecological objectives inherent to
conservation problems. Most published conservation research that uses DSFs focuses
on analytical stages (e.g., identifying an optimal decision), making it difficult to assess
and learn from previous examples in a conservation practice context. Here, we (1)
evaluate the relationship between the application of decision science and the resulting
conservation outcomes, and (2) identify and address existing barriers to the application
of DSFs to conservation practice. To do this, we develop a framework for evaluating
conservation initiatives using decision science that emphasizes setting attainable
goals, building momentum, and obtaining partner buy-in. We apply this framework to a
systematic review of amphibian conservation decision support projects, including a
follow-up survey of the pertinent conservation practitioners, stakeholders, and
scientists. We found that all projects identified optimal solutions to reach stated
objectives, but positive conservation outcomes were limited when implementation
challenges arose. Further, we identified multiple barriers (e.g., dynamic and
hierarchical leadership, scale complexity, limited resource availability) that can inhibit
the progression from decision identification to action implementation (i.e., ‘decision-implementation gap’), and to successful conservation outcomes. Based on these results, we provide potential actionable steps and avenues for future development of DSFs to facilitate the transition from decision to action and the realization of conservation successes.

Publication details
Published Date:
Outlet/Publisher: Biological Conservation
Media Format:

ARMI Organizational Units:
Northeast - Biology
Decision science; management; translational ecology
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