Biodiversity needs more than just unwanted leftovers

28 02 2014

calm oceanThe real measure of conservation progress, on land or in the sea, is how much biodiversity we save from threatening processes.

A new paper co-authored by Memorial University’s Dr Rodolphe Devillers and an international group of researchers argues that established global marine protected areas are too often a case of all show with no substance and do not adequately protect the most vulnerable areas of the world’s oceans.

“There is a big pressure internationally to expand global MPA coverage from around 3 % of the oceans to 10 %, resulting in a race from countries to protect large and often unused portions of their territorial waters for a minimal political cost,” said Mr. Devillers. “Marine protected areas are the cornerstone of marine conservation, but we are asking whether picking low-hanging fruit really makes a difference in the long-term, or if smaller areas currently under threat should be protected before, or at the same time as, those larger areas that are relatively inaccessible and therefore less used by people.

“We need to stop measuring conservation success in terms of square kilometres,” he added. “The real measure of conservation progress, on land or in the sea, is how much biodiversity we save from threatening processes. Metrics such as square kilometres or percentages of jurisdictions are notoriously unreliable in telling us about the true purpose of protected areas.” Read the rest of this entry »

Are we speaking the same ecological language?

24 02 2014

group communicationThe simple answer to that question is ‘no bloody way’.

In the last few days a paper we’ve been working on for years has just appeared online, and lead author Salvador Herrando-Pérez (no stranger to has put together a beautiful little post about why we think it’s so important. If heeded, our suggestions could transform ecology and place it on the scientific pedestal it deserves to occupy.


The ecological literature can sound like a multilingual chorus when authors ignore the genesis of ecological concepts and terms in their publications under the terminologically lenient editorial policy of ecological journals. As a first step towards regulating this situation, we have just proposed the bases of a convention of ecological nomenclature (1) as a substantial element of ecological synthesis. Below we expose the rationale of this proposal, and summarise the elements of the convention.

In the 2000s, I spent quite a bit of time writing stories and doing storytelling performance. I have always had a passion for words, and was able to entertain this passion in the confines of science when in 2007 I embarked on a PhD with the goal of doing a conceptual and macro ecological revision of the once-upon-a-time controversial concept of density dependence (DD). It took me several months of reading to realise that many of the problems I then experienced to understand the literature were caused by a formidable jargon comprising > 50 terms for naming only 4 DD types, and many associated concepts in population dynamics (like boundedness, determination, limitation, persistence, regulation, spreading the risk, stabilisation, vagueness). After four years of further readings (and four manuscript rejections along the way), that realisation turned into a paper (2) in which we (including Corey, Barry Brook and Steven Delean as partners in crime) showed that DD jargon has thrived not only because terminology tracks and genuinely expands in response to conceptual development and refinement (e.g., 3 for Allee effects), but many population ecologists work/ed isolated within their areas of expertise, and use/d words to express opinion more often than facts – for example see references 4 and 5, or the (classic and sometimes indigestible) exchanges between Alexander Nicholson and Herbert Andrewartha (6-9).

The use of terminology in the ecological literature is governed by a silent rule (silent because it is written no where, and rule because everyone appears to follow it) in that you write a paper and enjoy the freedom to re-define a concept, to coin a new term, or to use a term without defining it. This rule favours individualistic writing styles and propels the proliferation of synonymy and polysemy, albeit coming at the expense of general understanding. Read the rest of this entry »

Incentivise to keep primary forests intact

7 02 2014

The Amazon rainforest. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

I know – ‘incentivise’ is one of those terrible wank words of business speak. But to be heard by the economically driven, one must learn their guttural and insensitive language. I digress …

Today’s post is merely a repost of an interview I did for the new series ‘Next Big Idea in Forest Conservation‘. I’m honoured to have been selected for an interview along with the likes of Bill Laurance and Stuart Pimm.

Consider this my conservation selfie.

An Interview with Corey Bradshaw What is your background?

Corey Bradshaw: I have a rather eclectic background in conservation ecology. I grew up in the wilds of western Canada, the son of a trapper. My childhood experiences initially gave me a primarily consumptive view of the environment from trapping, fishing and hunting, but I learned that without intact environmental functions, these precious resources quickly degrade or disappear. This ironic appreciation of natural processes would later lead me into academia and the pursuit of reducing the rate of the extinction crisis.

I completed my first degrees in ecology in Montréal and the University of Alberta, followed by a PhD in New Zealand at the University of Otago. After deciding to pursue the rest of my career in the Southern Hemisphere, I completed my postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Tasmania. Multiple field seasons in the subantarctic and Antarctica probably assisted in a giving me a burgeoning desire to change gears, so I left for the tropics of northern Australia to begin a position at Charles Darwin University. Being introduced there to conservation greats like Navjot Sodhi (sadly, now deceased), Barry Brook and David Bowman turned my research interests on their ear. I quickly became enamoured with quantitative conservation ecology, applying my skills in mathematics to the plight of the world’s ecosystems. Nowhere did the problems seem more intractable than in the tropics.

I am now based at the University of Adelaide (since 2008) and have a vibrant research lab where we apply our quantitative skills to everything from conservation ecology, climate change, energy provision, human population trends, ecosystem services, sustainable agriculture, human health, palaeoecology, carbon-based conservation initiatives and restoration techniques. How long have you worked in tropical forest conservation and in what geographies? What is the focus of your work? Read the rest of this entry »

Cartoon guide to biodiversity loss XXII

3 02 2014

Here are another 6 biodiversity cartoons while I prepare for yet another trip overseas (see full stock of previous ‘Cartoon guide to biodiversity loss’ compendia here).

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: