Featured Publications:

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.

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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.

Environmental Conservation


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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Recent Publications:

Selected Publications:

  • Acheampong, E. O., Sayer, J., & Macgregor, C. J. (2018). Road improvement enhances smallholder productivity and reduces forest encroachment in Ghana. Environmental Science & Policy, 85, 64-71.
  • Barr, C. M., & Sayer, J. A. (2012). The political economy of reforestation and forest restoration in Asia–Pacific: Critical issues for REDD+. Biological conservation, 154, 9-19.
  • Boedhihartono, A. K. (2017). Can Community Forests Be Compatible With Biodiversity Conservation in Indonesia? Land, 6(1), 21.
  • Boedhihartono, A. K. (2017). Visualizing the Future We Want: Reconciling Art, Environment and Development. In The Aesthetics of Development (pp. 161-188): Springer.
  • Boedhihartono, A. K., Bongers, F., Boot, R. G., van Dijk, J., Jeans, H., van Kuijk, M., Koster, H., Reed, J., Sayer, J.,  Sunderland, T. (2018). Conservation Science and Practice Must Engage With the Realities of Complex Tropical Landscapes. Tropical Conservation Science, 11.
  • Boedhihartono, A. K., Endamana, D., Ruiz-Perez, M., & Sayer, J. (2015). Landscape scenarios visualized by Baka and Aka Pygmies in the Congo Basin. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, 22(4), 279-291.
  • Boedhihartono, A. K., Gunarso, P., Levang, P., & Sayer, J. (2007). The principles of conservation and development: Do they apply in Malinau? Ecology and Society, 12(2).
  • Bull, G., Boedhihartono, A., Bueno, G., Cashore, B., Elliott, C., Langston, J., Riggs, R.A., Sayer, J. (2018). Global forest discourses must connect with local forest realities. International Forestry Review, 20(2), 160-166.
  • Bull, G., Elliott, C., Boedhihartono, A., & Sayer, J. (2014). Failures In Tropical Forest And Conservation Policy: What Is The Solution? In (pp. 1-4): Journal of Tropical Forest Science.
  • Chang, W.-Y., & Gaston, C. (2016). A trade flow analysis of the global softwood log market: implications of Russian log export tax reduction and New Zealand log production restriction. Forestry: An International Journal of Forest Research, 89(1), 20-35.
  • Chang, W.-Y., Wang, S., Gaston, C., Cool, J., An, H., & Thomas, B. R. (2019b). Economic evaluations of tree improvement for planted forests: A systematic review. BioProducts business, 1-14.
  • De La Roche, I., & Gaston, C. (2001). The future of wood products: What is the prognosis? The forestry chronicle, 77(6), 985-988.
  • Gaston, C. W. (2014). Visual wood product trends in North American nonresidential buildings. Forest Products Journal, 64(3-4), 107-115.
  • Langston, J. D., McIntyre, R., Falconer, K., Sunderland, T., van Noordwijk, M., & Boedhihartono, A. K. (2019a). Discourses mapped by Q-method show governance constraints motivate landscape approaches in Indonesia. PloS one, 14(1).
  • Langston, J. D., Riggs, R. A., Sayer, J. A., Margules, C., & Boedhihartono, A. K. (2019b). Science embedded in local forest landscape management improves benefit flows to society. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, 2, 3.
  • Langston, J. D., Riggs, R. A., Sururi, Y., Sunderland, T., & Munawir, M. (2017). Estate crops more attractive than community forests in west Kalimantan, Indonesia. Land, 6(1), 12.
  • Laurance, W. F., Sayer, J., & Cassman, K. (2014). Agricultural expansion and its impacts on tropical nature. Trends in ecology & evolution, 29(2), 107-116.
  • Laurance, W. F., Sloan, S., Weng, L., & Sayer, J. A. (2015). Estimating the Environmental Costs of Africa’s Massive “Development Corridors”. Current biology, 25(24), 3202-3208.
  • Margules, C., Sayer, J., Boedhihartono, A. K., Sarkar, S., & Supriatna, J. (2015). A More Sustainable Development Approach for Eastern Indonesia? Indonesian Studies.
  • Rampengan, M. M., Boedhihartono, A. K., Law, L., Gaillard, J., & Sayer, J. (2014). Capacities in Facing Natural Hazards: A Small Island Perspective. International Journal of Disaster Risk Science, 1-18.
  • Riggs, R. A., Langston, J. D., Margules, C., Boedhihartono, A. K., Lim, H. S., Sari, D. A., Sururi, Y., Sayer, J. (2018a). Governance Challenges in an Eastern Indonesian Forest Landscape. Sustainability, 10(1), 169.
  • Sari, D. A., Margules, C., Boedhihartono, A. K., & Sayer, J. (2018). Criteria and indicators to audit the performance of complex, multi-functional forest landscapes. In Routledge Handbook of Sustainability Indicators (pp. 407-426): Routledge.
  • Sari, D. A., Sayer, J., Margules, C., & Boedhihartono, A. K. (2019). Determining the effectiveness of forest landscape governance: A case study from the Sendang landscape, South Sumatra. Forest Policy and Economics, 102, 17-28.
  • Sayer, J. & Campbell, B. M. (2004a). The science of sustainable development: local livelihoods and the global environment, Cambridge University Press.
  • Sayer, J., Endamana, D., Boedhihartono, A. K., Ruiz-Perez, M., & Breuer, T. (2016). Learning from change in the Sangha Tri-National landscape. International Forestry Review, 18(1), 130-139.
  • Sayer, J., Margules, C., & Boedhihartono, A. K. (2017a). Will Biodiversity Be Conserved in Locally-Managed Forests? Land, 6(1), 6.
  • Sayer, J., Margules, C., Boedhihartono, A. K., Dale, A., Sunderland, T., Supriatna, J., & Saryanthi, R. (2014). Landscape approaches; what are the pre-conditions for success? Sustainability Science, 1-11.
  • Sayer, J., Margules, C., Bohnet, I., Boedhihartono, A. K., Pierce, R., Dale, A., & Andrews, K. (2015). The Role of Citizen Science in Landscape and Seascape Approaches to Integrating Conservation and Development. Land, 4(4), 1200-1212.
  • Sayer, J., Sheil, D., Galloway, G., Riggs, R. A., Mewett, G., MacDicken, K. G., Arts, B., Boedhihartono, A.K., Langston, J.D., Edwards, D. P. (2019). SDG 15: Life on Land – The Central Role of Forests in Sustainable Development. In Sustainable Development Goals: Their Impacts on Forests and People (pp. 482-509). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Sayer, J., Sunderland, T., Ghazoul, J., Pfund, J.-L., Sheil, D., Meijaard, E., Venter, M., Boedhihartono, A.K., Day, M., Garcia, C., Van Oosten, C., Buck, L. E. (2013). Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling agriculture, conservation, and other competing land uses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(21), 8349-8356.
  • Sayer, J. A., Margules, C., Boedhihartono, A. K., Sunderland, T., Langston, J. D., Reed, J., Riggs, R., Buck, L., Campbell, B., Kusters, K., Elliott, C., Minang, P., Dale, A., Purnomo, H., Stevenson, J., Gunarso, P., Purnomo, A. (2017b). Measuring the effectiveness of landscape approaches to conservation and development. Sustainability Science, 12(3), 465-476.
  • Weng, L., Sayer, J. A., & Xue, L. (2017). Will China redefine development patterns in Africa? Evidence from Cameroon. The Extractive Industries and Society, 4(3), 506-512.