Providing evidence to improve practice

The journal, Conservation Evidence

Our online journal publishes research, monitoring results and case studies on the effects of conservation interventions. All papers include some monitoring of the effects of the intervention and are written by, or in partnership with, those who did the conservation work. It includes interventions such as habitat creation, habitat restoration, translocations, reintroductions, invasive species control, and education or integrated conservation development programmes, from anywhere around the world.

A volume is created each year with peer-reviewed papers published throughout the year. We now accept Short Communications as well as standard papers.

Special issues contain new papers on a specific topic.

Virtual collections collate papers published in the journal on specific topics such as management of particular groups of species.

To search for papers on a specific topic within the journal select 'Advanced search' on the Home page, enter your keyword(s) and within the Source box type: "conservation evidence".

Volume 10



Conservation practice could benefit from routine testing and publication of management outcomes
Sutherland W.J., Mitchell R, Walsh J., Amano T., Ausden M., Beebee T.J.C., Bullock D., Daniels M., Deutsch J., Griffiths R.A., Prior S. V., Whitten T. & Dicks L.V. (2013), 10, 1-3

Effective conservation requires a step change in the way practitioners can contribute to science and can have access to research outputs. The journal Conservation Evidence was established in 2004 to help practitioners surmount several obstacles they face when attempting to document the effects of their conservation actions scientifically. It is easily and freely accessible online. It is free to publish in and it enables global communication of the effects of practical trials and experiments, which are virtually impossible to get published in most scientific journals. The driving force behind Conservation Evidence is the need to generate and share scientific information about the effects of interventions.

Local and co-management approaches are increasingly adopted in marine conservation to increase compliance with rules, which is essential for effective management. Here, we evaluate an innovative approach to increasing compliance with community laws restricting access to permanently closed marine reserves within a locally managed marine area in southwest Madagascar. Drawing upon strong cultural bonds with ancestors and local taboos, permanent reserves were sanctified through a traditional ceremonies in which ancestral benediction was requested during reserve closures. We evaluated the effectiveness of the ceremonies in increasing respect for the rules through structured interviews with 161 fishers and local leaders from 10 villages located near established permanent reserves. Almost half of the respondents believed that respect for the rules is increased by the ceremonies.  If this is reflected in actual behaviour change, it will help reduce rule infringement, enforcement costs and social conflict. At a one-off cost of approximately 500 US$ each, we believe the ceremonies provide value-for-money as a conservation intervention in the context of southwest Madagascar.

The impacts of commercial woodland management on woodland butterfly biodiversity in Morecambe Bay, UK
Taylor D.L., Ramsey A., Convery I., Lawrence A. & Weatherall A. (2013), 10, 10-15

Although the effects on biodiversity in woodland managed for conservation have been studied for a range of species, there is very little empirical data on the potential impacts of commercial woodland management on biodiversity in the UK. This study measured species richness and abundance of diurnal butterflies as a proxy for the habitat quality of three different woodland management techniques in the Morecambe Bay limestone woodland region. Butterflies were sampled at two sites; Gait Barrows and Witherslack, where three woodland management techniques were carried out: low management woodland (woodland with no recent intervention); traditional coppice management for conservation; and commercial woodland management. Both coppice management for conservation and commercial management had significantly higher butterfly species richness and abundance when compared to low management woodland; neither butterfly species richness nor abundance were significantly different between the traditional coppice management for conservation and commercial woodland management. UK Biodiversity Action Plan fritillary species (high brown fritillary Argynnis adippe; pearl bordered fritillary Boloria euphrosyne; and small pearl bordered fritillary Boloria selene) were not significantly different between the traditional coppice management for conservation and commercial management.

The objective of this work was to test the effectiveness of reducing bracken density by cutting once or twice a year, or by hand-pulling, compared with a control. The experimental site had already been managed by annually cutting bracken for about 10 years. One year after the management treatments were applied to the plots, both the cut treatments had significantly shorter fronds than the control, but no difference was seen with the pulling treatment. Frond densities and frond coverage were not significantly different from the control, with each showing high variability between plots.

Concern over the decline in species-rich grassland in the UK has led to a focus on restoration. This study looks at the rate of natural colonisation of species into semi-improved grassland from adjacent unimproved species rich grassland over a 12 year period.  During this period the grassland had been managed traditionally with an annual hay cut followed by aftermath grazing and no input of fertilizer or farm yard manure.  During 2000 and 2012 vegetation surveys were carried out on two unimproved fields and two semi-improved fields.  These data were analysed for species-richness using two variables; Total species, and Wildlife Site Indicator species. A National Vegetation Classification survey was undertaken in 2012. Species-richness increased significantly in the semi-improved meadows during the study period.  These meadows now meet the criteria for Wildlife Site designation and the National Vegetation Classification community is shifting from MG6 to the target community MG5.

An experiment was conducted to determine if Natterer’s bat Myotis nattereri and brown long-eared bat Plecotus auritus exhibited an occupation preference between five different bat box types in an ancient, lowland mixed deciduous woodland in Buckinghamshire. Groups of Schwegler 2F, 2FN, 1FS, 1FF woodcrete boxes and 1 wooden Apex box were erected in 13 locations (5 around each tree). The box clusters were located on trees with a proven history of good box occupancy levels - part of a 10 year woodland bat box scheme. The group positions were evenly spaced along a transect line of 300m in homogenous habitat of predominantly semi mature Pendunculate Oak Quercus robur and Ash Fraxinus excelsior closed canopy with lapsed Hazel Corylus avellana coppice understorey. The temperature regimes of the boxes were compared and found to be similar, and consistent with the ambient temperature due to the shaded nature of the sites. Aspect was experimentally controlled by progressively rotating the box positions around the tree. The occupancy rates of the five boxes were compared and showed a selection bias towards two box types, influenced by seasonal bird competition.

Human behaviour is the key driver of all major threats to biodiversity. Habitat loss, climate change, invasive species and overharvesting are, in general, consequences of the lifestyle of billions of humans.  In order to move from documenting losses and identifying causes for decline to tackling the underlying drivers and implementing solutions, we need to recognize that conservation is not only about animals and plants but equally about people and their behaviour.

 

Fuel wood is a key source of energy for many families in developing areas of China.  Fuel efficient stoves are often identified as a win-win solution for forest protections and public health/development in China and across the globe. However, the communication and connection between stoves and biodiversity conservation has been less clear, by both those who are promoting their use as well as those adopting the technology. Social marketing is the application of marketing principles used to sell products applied to “sell” ideas, attitudes, and behaviours to benefit the public good. The Campaign to Protect the Sichuan Golden Snub-nosed Monkey in the Yuhe Nature Reserve, Gansu Province, China, was initiated in 2008 in an effort to inspire communities to protect forest habitat in the reserve, and quickly adopt fuel-efficient stoves.  Results of this study show significant increases in knowledge, attitudes, and interpersonal communication pre and post campaign (16 – 49 percentage points).  Post-campaign (within 1 year) results concluded 28.0% and 43.1% of those surveyed within 1 year of and 2.5 years adopted the technology.  For those households that adopted fuel-efficient stoves, consumption and gathering time were reduced by 40.1% and 38.2% respectively.  Finally, preliminary research suggests that adoption of fuel-efficient stoves also lead to a reduction in forest destruction, with a 23.7 % reduction in the number of newly felled trees in areas where the stoves had been adopted by greater than half of the surrounding community.  The results of this study suggest that social marketing can be an effective tool for improving community knowledge and attitudes, decreasing destructive behaviour, and reducing threats to biological important forests in China.

From April 2009 to November 2010, a social marketing campaign was designed and implemented in southwest Madagascar to encourage fishers to give up destructive fishing methods and to improve the awareness and enforcement of local laws (dina). The campaign, which targeted local leaders and fishers, was designed using results from formal and informal social surveys and focused on removing locally perceived barriers to behaviour change. In this paper, we describe the campaign from design to implementation, and evaluate its effects through surveys of 500 fishers and local leaders, and preliminary observational data on dina enforcement and use of destructive fishing techniques. Results after one year showed improved knowledge and positive attitudes about dina among leaders and fishers, moderate increases in the enforcement of dina, and moderate decreases in the use of destructive fishing methods. Our findings demonstrate the power and suitability of social marketing as a tool for fostering sustainable behaviour in traditional fishing communities, when combined with good governance and enforcement strategies.

In the high Andean landscapes of northern Peru’s Cajamarca San Ignacio province, Rare and Cáritas-Peru together launched a social marketing ‘Pride’ campaign, targeted at upstream farmers and downstream water users, to re-align upstream and downstream incentives and create a locally-governed water institution with directives to protect upstream forests. These institutions, locally called Reciprocal Water Agreements, are based heavily on local norms of reciprocity, whereby downstream users compensate upstream farmers for setting aside riparian forests for conservation and thereby protecting local species and environmental quality. Upstream farmers are compensated in the form of in-kind payments—a combination of economic alternatives such as provision of beekeeping equipment or fencing to keep cattle from encroaching riverbanks.  The purpose of the Pride campaign, based on Rare’s methods, was to generate local buy-in and accelerate the process of institution-building and adoption of Reciprocal Water Agreements. Cáritas-Peru and Rare staff collaborated to construct a theory of change and a series of methods have been employed to measure progress and impact. This campaign has led to the signing of 25 Reciprocal Water Agreement contracts, securing the protection of more than 360 hectares of forest.

Driving adoption of payments for ecosystem services through social marketing, Veracruz, Mexico
Green K.M., DeWan A., Balcázar Arias A. & Hayden D. (2013), 10, 48-52

In the Central Coast of Veracruz, Mexico, expansion of sugar cane production, cattle ranching and urban development threatens the tropical deciduous forest that serves as stopover habitat for numerous species of migratory raptors, among them the peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus. To conserve the habitat of these key migratory bird species, and slow deforestation due to agricultural pressures, Pronatura Veracruz and Rare implemented a social marketing Pride campaign to motivate landowners to join a network of private conservation areas in exchange for ecosystem service payments under Mexico’s national Payments for Ecosystem Services program. In an area where Payments for Ecosystem Services adoption had been slow to take off, initial results indicate that the application of social marketing methods facilitated a social change in the Actopan municipality of Veracruz and ultimately enabled the protection of more than 1,500 hectares of previously unprotected forest.

PCI Media Impact formed a coalition of 13 local organizations in Loja Province, Ecuador, in order to implement a My Community communications intervention to reduce contamination of the local surface drinking water supply. Contamination was caused by sewage from farm animals, deforestation causing soil erosion, and improper disposal of toxic wastes such as batteries. The My Community intervention was tripartite consisting of (1) an entertainment-education radio drama, (2) accompanying radio talk and call-ins, and news programs on local media outlets, and (3) the formation of EcoClubs in local schools. Listenership to the entertainment education radio drama was high (62%) among the target audience, and 100 students joined one of the 7 EcoClubs that were formed. Survey respondents reported substantial improvements in knowledge, attitude and behaviour related to solid waste pollution, including a 26-percentage point increase in respondents who reported that they had recycled their batteries. More than 5,000 batteries were collected in a battery collection drive.

The Nam Et Phou Louey National Protected Areain the Lao People’s Democratic Republic contains the last confirmed breeding population of tigers (Panthera tigris) in Indochina.  There are two main threats to tigers, direct killing of tigers and the illegal hunting of wild ungulates, the tigers’ principle prey.  Villagers living around the National Protected Area rely on these same ungulates as an important source of protein in their daily diet.  The illegal hunting of tigers and prey for commercial trade is unsustainable and is driven by a lack of ownership by local villagers who engage in illegal activities and by government agencies that do not enforce the laws.  To reduce these threats the Nam Et Phou Louey National Protected Area is using a social marketing campaign in parallel with traditional enforcement to change the behavior of illegal hunters, village members, and government officials.  To determine campaign effectiveness, a survey instrument was developed to measure knowledge, attitudes and behavior change, which included both a control and pre and post surveys of target audiences.  The pre and post surveys indicate a significant shift along the theory of change from knowledge to behavior change.  The assumption is that over time this shift will also lead to threat reduction to, and thus increase of, tiger and prey populations.

Increase of white stork Ciconia ciconia population attracted by artificial nesting platforms in Calabria, Italy
Santopaolo R., Godino G., Golia S., Mancuso A., Monterosso G., Pucci M., Santopaolo F. & Gustin M. (2013), 10, 67-69

Between 2002 and 2012, the return of breeding pairs of white storks to Calabria, Italy, was encouraged through the installation of 46 artificial circular wooden platforms, of which 35 were supported on masts, nine on utility poles, and two on iron poles. The first platform nest was built in 2007, when there were just three breeding pairs of white storks at the site. By 2012, eleven nests were on artificial platforms, and the total white stork population at these sites had risen to 12 pairs. Between 2007 and 2012, 103 juveniles fledged from 30 nests located on platforms. More young fledged from nests on artificial platforms (4.0 ± 1.0 per nest), than from nests located elsewhere (3.4 ± 0.9 per nest). These results show that artificial platforms installed in suitable areas can be an effective in helping to increase breeding populations of white storks.

 

A quarry pond in Highland, UK, was treated with PyBlast (a biocide derived from natural pyrethrin) to eradicate a population of invasive non-native signal crayfish Pacifasticus leniusculus.  Although it was anticipated that pyrethrin application would lead to the death of all poikilothermic animals present in the quarry pond, its use was sanctioned as surveys did not reveal the presence of any protected or other scarce species. It was assumed that native fauna, including amphibians, would re-colonise from an adjacent pond which was not treated. PyBlast (0.4 mg/l) was applied from 12 to 13 June 2012. Follow-up surveys later in June, and in August and September, found no live crayfish, but established the presence of common toad Bufo bufo tadpoles, and both larval and adult palmate newt Lissotriton helveticus.  All appeared developmentally and behaviourally normal.  These observations suggest that common toad and palmate newt larvae are able to survive levels of Pyblast generally lethal to crustaceans, indicating that amphibian presence at a site should not necessarily halt crayfish eradication programmes.

 

 

Broad-leaved cudweed Filago pyramidata is a UK Red List, Endangered plant with only seven extant sites. The most important of these is Ranscombe Farm, now a reserve managed by Plantlife. From 2005 onwards, Plantlife extended targeted cultivation for broad-leaved cudweed across existing arable land with the support of Natural England’s Environmental Stewardship scheme. This led to the appearance and rapid spread of broad-leaved cudweed in new locations on the site and a population increase from a previous estimate of 60,000 to more than 3,000,000 plants.

 

Deep Dale is situated within the carboniferous limestone area of the Peak District National Park.  The study site occupies an area of 36 hectares, representing the south-eastern slopes of the dale.  During the period from 1950 to 1996, the site was grazed by cattle, traditionally from the beginning of May each year.  Then, from 1997 to 2012, the grazing start date was delayed to the beginning of July in order to comply with the requirements of agri-environment schemes.  Repeat surveys indicate that this change in start date appears to have resulted in few pronounced changes to the vegetation.  Some areas of grassland on shallow soils (conforming to National Vegetation Community CG2d) have become more herb-rich with an increase in abundance of kidney vetch Anthyllis vulneraria, common milkwort Polygala vulgaris, devilsbit scabious Succisa pratensis and autumn gentian Gentianella amarella.  However, it appears that these changes are mainly associated with areas grazed preferentially (first) by livestock, whilst in an area of CG2d grazed later, fewer positive indicator species have shown an increase in their abundance and there are early signs of a decline in condition, including a decrease in the abundance of fairy flax Linum catharticum and an increase in the abundance of bryophytes.  Most significantly, areas of acid U4c grassland have shown a notable increase in the abundance of hawthorn Crataegus monogyna seedlings, and in the abundance of wavy hair-grass Deschampsia flexuosa.

 

The global range of the Aldabra white-throated rail Dryolimnas cuvieri aldabranus, the last surviving flightless bird in the Indian Ocean, was restricted to only three islands of Aldabra Atoll in 1998. It was extirpated on the islands of Grand Terre (before the late 1800s) and Picard (soon after 1910), mainly due to the introduction of feral cats by early settlers. In 1999, following the eradication of cats from Picard, 18 Aldabra rails were successfully reintroduced. After the reintroduction, population growth of the Aldabra rail on Picard was predicted to continue to approximately 1,000 pairs by 2010. In this paper, we report on the long-term effectiveness of the reintroduction by updating the Aldabra rail population estimate on Picard 12 years after the translocation and one year after the predicted maximum was expected to be reached. We confirm the predicted carrying capacity on Picard has been reached and probably exceeded; report a reliable survey method for the Aldabra rail, which can be applied to other terrestrial bird species; and recommend subsequent monitoring and conservation management strategies for the Aldabra rail and potentially other species of rail.

 

A long-running pest management programme was tested to determine to what extent rats were removed from a 50 ha managed area on the shore of Lake Taupo, North Island, New Zealand.  It was confirmed that the trapping protocol employed was effective in catching rats by setting a new trap line in a non-managed area where rats were undisturbed; 64 rats were caught over 10 days. Damage to fake nests, a reliable indicator of the presence of rats, peaked after eight days when 31 of 40 nests were destroyed in one night. The same protocol was then applied in the managed area in comparable forest. Here no rats were caught, and fake nests remained untouched. It was also confirmed that the lack of captures in the managed area was due to effective pest control, rather than to widespread trap avoidance, by using three other methods of monitoring rat presence. It was concluded that the community-led programme was effective in removing rats from the managed area during the nesting season.

 

Crassula helmsii is a semi-aquatic, invasive macrophyte, which has become abundant in wetland habitats across Europe. This species is of conservation concern because heavy invasions form dense carpets within which few other plants species occur. C. helmsii is known to be killed by inundation with seawater, but published information on its response to inundation by less saline water is limited. Growth trials were conducted to investigate the levels of salinity required to kill this species. We found a linear negative relationship between growth rate and salinity across the range from 2 – 8 ppt, but that 8 ppt was required to kill C. helmsii. These findings suggest that C. helmsii growth could be controlled by inundation with saline water of 8 ppt. This may present a method for reducing the negative effects of salt water on co-occurring species, and thus the next stage will be to determine the efficacy of this method in field trials.

 

Historical records over the last century suggest an overall decline in UK bat populations, with the cause speculated to include a decline in roost availability. In 2009, a noctule maternity roost was recorded in an ash tree within ancient semi-natural woodland in Milton Keynes, UK, where up to 75 bats including lactating females were recorded. In December 2011, the ash tree was accidentally felled by contract staff operating on behalf of the landowner whilst carrying out ride habitat and tree safety management as the tree was considered to be a public safety concern. A mitigation and compensation strategy was implemented, with a noctule maternity colony returning in 2012 and 2013. The landowner has subsequently altered internal working practices in relation to bats and trees. This case study exemplifies the need for sharing ecological data records within organisations, and to and from third parties. Good record keeping including photographic and video evidence together with a ‘rapid response’ procedure is demonstrated.

 

The ratio of captures to unit effort is an important cost/benefit measure for volunteer pest control programmes. We describe an experiment designed to investigate the use of pre-feeding and trap pulsing as possible means of increasing this ratio. In 20 traps locked-open and pre-fed with non-toxic pellets for five days, the same number of black rats was caught over the next 5 days as in 20 non pre-fed traps set for the whole 10 days (32 rats each). Allowing for successful traps being unavailable for an average of half a night each, the capture rate in the pre-fed traps was 47% over five days, more than double that in the non pre-fed traps set for twice as long (total 19% in 10 days).