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New database to better guide global conservation efforts

Friday, 14 September 2018

Source: James Cook University

James Cook University researchers say a new global database will lead to better marine parks by helping to bridge critical gaps in marine conservation planning.

Dr Jorge G. Álvarez-Romero from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at JCU led a study that looked at marine conservation planning worldwide.

“For this study, we developed a database to document conservation planning and analysed all marine studies available in the scientific literature. It clearly shows deficiencies in the present system,” he said.

Dr Álvarez-Romero said systematic conservation planning studies, used to determine which areas would be most useful in conserving marine biodiversity, are growing very quickly.

“Despite this, there is no structured or reliable way of finding information on methods, trends and progress. There is little evidence of input from stakeholders. There are important gaps in geographic coverage and not enough work done on the areas most threatened,” he said.

“We know the number and total extent of protected areas will increase significantly during the next few decades. The challenge is making this expansion count in terms of biodiversity conservation,” he said.

JCU’s Distinguished Professor Bob Pressey, Chief Investigator at Coral CoE and co-leader of the study, said researchers from five countries led most studies, with Australia forging the way in global marine conservation planning.

“Australian organisations have contributed significantly to developing methods and tools that are widely used in conservation planning,” he said.

“Despite these advances, the varying quality and detail in documentation of the studies limits opportunities to develop and apply best-practice principles,” said Professor Pressey.

Dr Morena Mills, conservation scientist at Imperial College London and co-leader of The Conservation Planning Database project, said a global database to track development, implementation and impact of conservation planning is urgently needed, along with a closer analysis of the literature, and continuous and comprehensive documentation of conservation planning exercises.

“The new database is a move towards a centralised repository of information of planning exercises and can advance conservation theory and practice,” she said.

Professor Heather Leslie, an international leader in marine conservation science and Director of the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center, said “With this database in hand, donors and non-government organisations can identify regions and topical areas needing further work, and scientists, practitioners and policy-makers can learn from previous plans.”

“In addition, it gives the scientific community – including peer reviewers – a means of assessing trends in conservation planning methods and applications, so that we can learn from our previous work and shape our new work accordingly,” she said.

The paper “Research advances and gaps in marine planning: towards a global database in systematic conservation planning” will be published in this week's online edition of the journal Biological Conservation (doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2018.06.027), and is available now through JCU ResearchOnline.

For more information, please check out the Conservation Planning Group blog here.

Contact:

Dr Jorge G. Álvarez-Romero (Jorge works at JCU’s Townsville campus)

M: +61 04 1546 5712

P: +61 07 4781 6517

E: jorge.alvarezromero@jcu.edu.au

Dr Morena Mills (Morena is Senior Lecturer in Conservation Science at the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Department of Life Sciences (Silwood Park), Imperial College London, UK)

M: +44 7933 729847

E: m.mills@imperial.ac.uk

Professor Heather Leslie (Heather is Director of the Darling Marine Center & Libra Associate Professor at The University of Maine, Walpole, ME, USA)

M: +001 207 350 2713

P: +001 207 563 8299

E: heather.leslie@maine.edu