The Research-Implementation Gap

I have recently been delving into the troublesome topic of conservation management. It is vast, fraught with opinion, and represents a web of proposed ideas for systems, techniques, priorities and agendas in conservation. What’s more, conservation management can only be defined and refined to a certain degree before the variability of conservation situations requires a more individual and delicate approach.

Some management themes, however, are more concrete and arise in numerous conservation projects throughout the globe. The research-implementation gap is one such theme.

Biodiversity assessments are constantly under way across the globe, increasing in size and frequency. Despite this, there is evidence indicating that few assessments are subsequently translated into conservation action (Knight et al 2008). This represents a huge downfall for global conservation considering the amount of time, money and resources that are pumped in to this initial research. Often, semi-informed management proposals are tagged on to biodiversity assessment reports and even the more developed proposals regularly go to waste due to funding shortfalls or resources to implement action.

It seems that our growing portfolio of biological knowledge of genetics, species and ecosystems (and everything in between), although necessary, is being wasted and even detracting from the matter at hand; saving our living planet. Research in to habitat fragmentation and protected area and landscape ecology proposes and tests theoretical methods, models and systems without actually doing conservation and trialling these theories in the real world. We should try them! And if they fail, we write about it, and we learn from our mistakes.

Communication is fundamental, but listening and developing, is also crucial. Prendergast et al. (1999) and Hopkinson et al. (2000) explain that the majority of conservation organisations will develop from scratch, their own management methods and systems, independent of research published in journals.

Although the research-implementation gap persists as a downfall of countless conservation programmes, there are also the winners. Ultimately, these organisations balance knowing with doing.


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