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SCALETOOL IntroductionDriversBiodiversityPolicies and managementConnectivity and protected areas

Does better science lead to better practice? Evidence from connectivity conservation in the UK

Dimitrios Bormpoudakis and Joseph Tzanopoulos


A wide implementation gap has been identified between the science and practice (henceforth "S-P") of conservation and ways to narrow it revolve around: (a) the more effective use of science in conservation practice, i.e. evidence-based conservation (Sutherland et al. 2004) and (b) the production of practitioner-relevant and empowering science (Knight 2013). The underlying premise of (a) and (b) is that at the kernel of the implementation gap lay knowledge-transfer bottlenecks. Expanding Beck's (2011) work, we identify the linear model of expertise of the S-P interface (henceforth the "linear model", see figure).


The linear model of expertise as it applies to the science-practice interface. Adapted from Beck's (2011) understanding of the model underpinning the science-policy interface as it relates to the IPCC.

Here, we present the results of our attempt to complicate the linear model by taking into consideration how (a) scientific friction, i.e. "the difficulties encountered when two scientific disciplines working on related problems try to interoperate" (Edwards et al. 2011) and (b) changes in conservation governance and politics, affect the S-P interface. As a case study, we used connectivity analysis within landscape-scale conservation partnerships in the UK. We interviewed 36 representatives using open-ended conversations around the theme of connectivity analysis. We transcribed the interviews and used grounded theory to analyse them and discover core themes and narratives that could explain the implementation gap.

Our results reveal that the linear model correctly describes several cases in which an S-P gap was discovered. Both practitioners and scientists often fail in conducting conservation in an effective way, the former by lacking in knowledge or skills and the latter by producing practitioner-irrelevant knowledge. Nevertheless, our results also reveal that science friction does impede the straightforward transfer of connectivity-related concepts such as corridors or stepping-stones across disciplines (e.g. conservation, ecology and planning). Also, long-term, slow-variables like governance or wider changes in political-economic paradigms strongly influence the S-P interface. For example, the increasing use of consultants for connectivity analyses reduces the ability of partnerships to conduct similar analyses in the future, thereby - and in combination with increasing resource-related problems - decreases their adaptive capacity (Bergsten and Zetterberg 2013). To sum-up, the implementation gap in conservation in England has some knowledge transfer related causes, but our panoramic view enabled us to see other, hitherto hidden variables.

References

Beck, S. (2011) Moving beyond the linear model of expertise? IPCC and the test of adaptation. Reg. Environ. Change., 11, 297-306.

Bergsten, A. & Zetterberg, A. (2013) To model the landscape as a network: A practitioner's perspective. Landscape Urban Plan., 119, 35-43.

Edwards, P.N., Mayernik, M.S., Batcheller, A.L., Bowker, G.C. & Borgman, C.L. (2011) Science friction: data, metadata, and collaboration. Soc. Stud. Sci., 41, 667-690.

Knight, A.T. (2013) Reframing the Theory of Hope in conservation science. Conserv. Lett., 6, 389-390.

Sutherland, W.J., Pullin, A.S., Dolman, P.M. & Knight T.M. (2004) The need for evidence-based conservation. TREE, 19, 305-308.

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