Conserving biodiversity requires a common vision and without it we are more likely to fail.
Conserving biodiversity requires a common vision and without it we are more likely to fail. That is the conclusion of a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE. And it is not only about finding a common denominator but also about doing it in a cost-effective manner.
Suppose you live near a park. You love to spend time there, but recently it has become overcrowded with too many dogs, frisbees and lots of noise. Even the tree you loved sitting by as a child now has too many marks on it and litter is lying all around it. But what if everyone knew and felt how important this tree is for you and how immensely valuable it is to you? Would they still continue to deface and destroy it?
The answer is no, say the researchers. Moreover, if everyone shared similar values and a common vision of the park emerged, people would be more likely to respect each other’s boundaries and needs. Creating such a framework would cost much less than dealing with the consequences of no common framework at all.
A similar approach becomes even more actionable when it is applied not to a small neighborhood park but to large areas with high conservation value.
To explore the impacts and cost-effectiveness of engaging stakeholders in conservation, the researchers conducted a case study on the Brigalow Belt bioregion, a hotspot of biodiversity in Australia with 179 at-risk species where various actors had different perspectives on how the land should be managed.
The team calculated the supposed return on investment into building a stakeholder-led vision of the territory. Based on expert contributions, the researchers compared expected results with and without a stakeholder-led vision for each particular strategy with a concrete list of activities.
The stakeholder vision was estimated as a relatively low-cost option with significant improvement in the feasibility of real-world management strategies. Engaging stakeholders would lead to higher persistence of endangered species across the region by 9% to 52%, depending on the chosen strategies, while costing just 1% of the overall portfolio of outlined measures.
The outcome can be attributed to a variety of factors. Many reaches beyond economic rationale to include expectations about greater care for and ownership of solutions, better awareness about different user values and choices of more inclusive strategies. The team emphasizes that any stakeholder-led visions should be adaptive, acknowledging the dynamic nature of ecosystems and communities.
The researchers conclude that this approach can help people make more informed decisions and calculate the maximum effective budget for investing in developing a common conservation vision or other social-ecological strategy based on stakeholder collaboration.