Evidence-based policy is about basing policy decisions on the best possible evidence as to what works and what doesn’t.
Perhaps the best example comes from medical practice. Medical training used to consist of trainee doctors following consultants and learning from their experience. It was then realised that there were enormous discrepancies in practice between hospitals which, when compared, showed striking differences in recovery rate of patients between approaches. This led to evidence-based medicine in which the assessment of effectiveness underpins almost all current practice.
The approach to medical practice 30 years ago was similar to the current approach to nature conservation, so a number of people (Pullin & Knight 2001, Sutherland 20001, Sutherland et al. 2004) suggested that a similar revolution would benefit conservation management. The vision is that the assessment and dissemination of the effectiveness of conservation actions will be a routine part of conservation practice.
1 Sutherland W.J. (2000) The Conservation Handbook: research, management and policy (pp. 111-113). Blackwell, Oxford.
The website is a database of scientific studies that describe the effects of conservation interventions.
There are both individual pieces of evidence - including studies published in our own journal Conservation Evidence and summaries of studies published elsewhere - and ‘collected evidence’ articles.
You can browse and search these studies and articles to find evidence relevant to your conservation objectives .
There are two fundamental criteria for inclusion of studies on the website:
- There must have been an intervention that conservationists would do
- Its effects must have been monitored quantitatively
We do not include studies solely reporting monitoring methods, species ecology, biodiversity surveys, or threats to biodiversity.
A conservation intervention is anything you might do to manage, protect, enhance or restore biodiversity.
Interventions include types of habitat or species management, methods of species or site protection, methods of controlling invasive species, species reintroduction, captive breeding, legislation, and education programmes.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Conservation Actions Classification Scheme provides an overview of possible types of intervention.
There are inevitably biases. For example, it is likely that successes are reported far more often than failures; we are keen to promote reporting of failed interventions so that others, if considering using similar techniques, are aware of such failures. Impacts on some species are more likely to be noted than others, whilst details of detrimental impacts upon non-target species may be under-recorded. Such potential biases should always be considered when using the information held within ConservationEvidence.com.
These contain brief (150-200 word) descriptions of multiple studies and then one or more key messages, drawing conclusions from across the literature that we have collected.
These key messages allow you to see at a glance what the available literature is and what its main conclusions are. You can then look at the paragraph describing each study to get more details, and assess the quality of evidence and how relevant it is to your situation.
For some studies you can find a more detailed summary of the background, the action(s) taken and their consequences. These summaries are only available for some of the peer-reviewed literature we have collected. If you want even more detail then please look at the original paper, following the links at the end of each summary.
Synopses bring together all the evidence for the effects of interventions for particular species groups, habitats or issues and contain all the ‘Collected Evidence’ articles for that topic.
‘Bee Conservation: Evidence for the effects of interventions’ is the first in a series of synopses that will eventually provide a comprehensive overview of the effectiveness of conservation interventions worldwide.
Conservation Evidence is a peer-reviewed journal that publishes short papers detailing the effectiveness of conservation interventions.
These will read more like long ‘Individual summaries’ than most journal papers – we aim to provide the key information for successful conservation as easily as possible.
How should I use the website?
The information held on this site can be used for example, to guide conservation actions and management plans. However, it does not tell you what to do.
To use the website efficiently, you can search for information relevant to your work, and then assess how applicable the interventions are to your situation. For example, ask yourself:
- Do they deal with the same species or habitats?
- Which studies are the most relevant?
- How contingent are they on local conditions?
- How strong is the evidence one way or another?
Have a think, then apply the information to your situation and decide on the course of action most likely to succeed.
The information in ConservationEvidence.com is freely available to all.
It is compiled particularly for those working to support or protect biodiversity, such as land managers, conservationists, farmers, policymakers, researchers, advisors or consultants.
However, we would also encourage its use for general fact-finding, such as by students, teachers or anyone wanting to find out more about biodiversity conservation.
Conservation Evidence journal papers should be quoted in the form: Badley J. & Allcorn R.I. (2006) The creation of a new saline lagoon as part of a flood defence scheme at RSPB Freiston Shore Nature Reserve, Lincolnshire, England. Conservation Evidence, 3, 99-101
Conservation Evidence synopses should be quoted in the form: Dicks L.V., Showler D.A. & Sutherland W.J. (2010) Bee Conservation: Evidence for the effects of interventions. Synopses of Conservation Evidence. Pegasus Publishing, Exeter.
Summaries of individual studies should be cited as the original reference (as given at the top of each individual summary).
The criteria for the Conservation Evidence journal are the same as for inclusion on the website:
- There must have been an intervention that conservationists would do
- Its effects must have been monitored quantitatively
Suitable activities include habitat restoration, habitat creation, invasive species control, reintroductions and education or integrated conservation development programmes. All that is required is an intervention and quantitative monitoring. We do not include studies solely reporting monitoring methods, species ecology, biodiversity surveys, or threats to biodiversity.
We also welcome reports of unsuccessful interventions – a key part of our philosophy is that it is just as important to report when something doesn’t work as when it does. If you don’t publish this information then people will continue to try the same, ineffective interventions time after time.
For details on how to submit a paper, please read these guidelines
So far we have completed three synopses, on bee conservation, bird conservation and conservation on northern European farmland. The bee and bird synopses are global in scope. The farmland synopsis includes evidence from northern Europe (all European countries west of Russia, but not those south of France, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary and Romania).
For a summary of the methods and evidence sources used for these synopses and others related to ecosystem services, please see the methods page of the Natural Environment Research Council Knowledge Exchange Programme on Sustainable Food Production.
Six global conservation synopses are currently being produced, on amphibians, bats, forests, reptiles, carnivores and plants. There is also a synopsis being written on evidence for interventions to control UK freshwater invasive species.
With funding from the Natural Environment Research Council, we are developing synopses on ecosystem services important in farmland and aquaculture (such as natural pest regulation, water quality and soil quality).
Over the next five years, Conservation Evidence aims to produce synopses covering every major habitat and taxonomic group.
Each will be produced through thorough literature reviews and with an international panel of experts advising on the scope and structure of the synopsis, ensuring that they communicate the information that conservation practitioners need in the easiest and most useful way possible.
These synopses will be available individually, online (both as a downloadable PDF and as a searchable database) and in print, but will also be combined into a ‘Global Synopsis’ – an authoritative guide to conservation practice for any habitat and taxon, anywhere in the world.
The ultimate aim is for Conservation Evidence to produce ‘bespoke’ synopses, dealing with only the habitats and interventions relevant for a particular country, region or interest group. Interested parties could select the interventions they are interested in and we would compile the evidence we have collected from across the world.
Who are we?
The idea is to give busy conservationists access to the very latest and most relevant ecological knowledge to support their policy or management decisions.
Our ongoing review process is set up to extract evidence continually from important conservation journals (such as Conservation Biology, Biological Conservation, Ecology, Journal of Applied Ecology,) and from systematic reviews published by the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence. We also trawl more specialist journals and unpublished literature to focus on particular species groups or habitats.
The British Ecological Society (BES) provided a start up grant and funding to summarise papers from Journal of Applied Ecology.
The funding of the Miriam Rothschild Chair in Conservation Biology through Arcadia enabled the development of the website.
The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has funded adding ornithological summaries and compilation of synopses.
Further funding has been provided by Arcadia and Economics and Social Science Research Council (ESRC) through the Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme.
How can I contribute to the Conservation Evidence project?
If you think that we’ve missed some evidence on the collected evidence articles, then click on 'Submit additional evidence' on that article and send us the details. You can also attach the evidence if you have access to it, but it has to be work that scientifically quantifies the consequences of interventions. We will periodically review the interventions and update them using your suggestions and further literature reviews.
In our synopses, we hope to have included all interventions used by conservationists. If we have missed techniques and practices that you know are being used or have been used in the past, please contact us to let us know.
Similarly, if you think that there is a synopsis topic that would be particularly useful, then please contact us. We are always looking to collaborate with other institutions and organisations. If you think you could help plan or compile a synopsis then please do get in touch.
We need to know if this website and Conservation Evidence publications are as useful as they can be. If you have any suggestions for how to improve any aspect of Conservation Evidence, please let us know using the feedback form.
How can I collect evidence?
Pick a simple intervention. Compare the consequences with either the situation beforehand, or in another equivalent (control) area without the intervention or compare different interventions. Having multiple areas with the intervention and control greatly improves the quality of the science.
Do the easy bits! The essential components of monitoring can often be carried out quite quickly.
For example: if treating a large number of invasive shrubs by cutting and herbicide application, then it might be appropriate to mark and count a proportion of these, and subsequently record how many have died or regrown.
If documenting a reintroduction, give the number of surviving individuals after a given period of time and any indication of reproductive success.
What other types of evidence/resources are there?
Systematic reviews (see www.environmentalevidence.org) are detailed evaluations of the evidence for specific policy-relevant questions. They comprise an exhaustive literature search, and usually incorporate meta-analysis that weight or value individual studies according to experimental rigour. Systematic reviews relating to conservation interventions are summarised on the Conservation Evidence database.
Alongside the Conservation Evidence project, the Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation (www.cebc.bangor.ac.uk) carry out and disseminate systematic reviews on the effectiveness of particular conservation interventions while the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence (www.environmentalevidence.org) collates systematic reviews.