People and Biodiversity in the 21st Century
This article belongs to Ambio’s 50th Anniversary Collection. Theme: Biodiversity conservation
Jeffrey Sayer, Christopher Margules, & Jeffrey A McNeely
Fifty years have elapsed since the first publication of Ambio. Throughout this period, fundamental changes have occurred in societal attitudes to biodiversity conservation. Ambiohas published numerous papers that have aligned with these new approaches. High citations numbers suggest that Ambio papers have had a significant impact on conservation strategies. We review these publications and find that they align well with changed societal perspectives on biodiversity. Ambio papers have called for greater contributions of local and indigenous peoples and for conservation in multi-functional landscapes. The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity built on these principles. Negotiations are now underway for a post-2020 framework for biodiversity. Ambio papers have argued for a stronger scientific basis for conservation and for the need to adapt to changing conditions and to the rich diversity of societal preferences for conservation. International processes favor simple, generalizable approaches to conservation but we call for recognition of the diversity of ecological and human conditions in which conservation occurs. There is a need to build capacity to support a diversity of conservation approaches that are adapted to changing local conditions and to the priorities of diverse human societies.
Trandisciplinary Science for improved conservation outcomes
Margules, C., Boedhihartono, A. K., Langston, J. D., Riggs, R. A., Sari, D. A., Sarkar, S., Sayer, J.A., Supriatna, J., Winarni, N. L.
Major advances in biology and ecology have sharpened our understanding of what the goals of biodiversity conservation might be, but less progress has been made on how to achieve conservation in the complex, multi-sectoral world of human affairs. The failure to deliver conservation outcomes is especially severe in the rapidly changing landscapes of tropical low-income countries. We describe five techniques we have used to complement and strengthen long-term attempts to achieve conservation outcomes in the landscapes and seascapes of such regions; these are complex social-ecological systems shaped by interactions between biological, ecological and physical features mediated by the actions of people. Conservation outcomes occur as a result of human decisions and the governance arrangements that guide change. However, much conservation science in these countries is not rooted in a deep understanding of how these social-ecological systems work and what really determines the behaviour of the people whose decisions shape the future of landscapes. We describe five scientific practices that we have found to be effective in building relationships with actors in landscapes and influencing their behaviour in ways that reconcile conservation and development. We have used open-ended inductive enquiry, theories of change, simulation models, network analysis and multi-criteria analysis. These techniques are all widely known and well tested, but seldom figure in externally funded conservation projects. We have used these techniques to complement and strengthen existing interventions of international conservation agencies. These five techniques have proven effective in achieving deeper understanding of context, engagement with all stakeholders, negotiation of shared goals and continuous learning and adaptation.
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