Friday, January 15, 2021

Panelist recommendations on how to improve research impact

As part of a webinar with different perspectives on how scientists can improve the impact of their research (https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ocIJjhIQRTGYqqs8a0Udew), I asked each panelist to share some advice and resources. Here are the answers from each of them.

Lynn Scarlett:

One complexity in exploring this science-decision maker intersection is that decision "types" vary significantly. Building issue awareness is different from informing regulatory analysis, which is different from developing, say, public sector resource management objectives and metrics (as in, for example, Everglades Restoration), and so on. The forms and processes and content of effective science-decision making interfacing vary significantly across different decision types.

I recommend three pdfs: the first is a slide deck of a speech I have given on science and decision making. It is shaped from the vantage point of a decision maker (rather than that of a scientist) but might offer food for thought of interest to the audience.  Because it is a slide deck, the points are in high-level bullet point form, but I think the points can be grasped, nonetheless. 

The other is a copy of Chapter 26 of the National Climate Assessment (US), 2014, on decision support, of which I was co-lead author with Richard Moss. While this is focused on decision support, it is, nonetheless, relevant to discussions of science impact on decision making. 

I also find a National Academy report "Informing Decisions in a Changing Climate" particularly insightful. 














Yoshi Ota:

My advice is as follows:

1. Consider what is the impact that you want. We often do not think about the large picture when we are not forced to do so. But this is important for both your motivation and for long-term planning. 

2. Consider the link between the impact and your activities. This is very difficult and many of us actually depend on “publishing in high impact journals''. However, this misses your opportunity to scope the work clearly and to discourage sequential thinking for problem solving. Think of this as an opportunity to open new ideas and impacts, so don't outsource!

3. Engage with the critical narrative. To engage with the process of Point 2 to explore new questions and perspectives as well as working on self-development, it is good to engage with critical narratives. Try not to think too much about their applications and be aware of simple logic. Embrace the complexity and enjoy the process of exploring. 

4. Be polite and be just: most important. I have been in many meetings where participants open their laptop while someone else is presenting. I even see this in stakeholder meetings where community representatives are speaking their opinion (in a second language) while scientists and NGO representatives are opening their laptops. During Nereus, the only person who never did this was Professor Jorge Sarmiento - a professor at Princeton and the most prominent scholar in our network. Also be just, meaning try to be the model for representing others and be aware of the unjust in the world. We feel vulnerable in these types of conversations but it is our duty not to dismiss them. 

Resources I recommend:

1) Nexus website

2) Nereus book 

3) Nereus website

4) COVID research report  


Mark Reed:

Put yourself in the shoes of those you want to help. 

More advice at http://fasttrackimpact.com/resources


Christian Pohl:

Think of impact as something that starts with problem framing, then can happen through multiple planned and unplanned pathways and that might have unexpected outcomes.

More advice at “Ten Reflective Steps for Rendering Research Societally Relevant” https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/oekom/gaia/2017/00000026/00000001/art00011 


Jon Fisher:

There are many small steps you can take to start improving your impact, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from others with complementary expertise.

More advice (based on our paper “Improving your impact: how to practice science that influences environmental policy and management”) at https://bitly.com/science-impact

Friday, January 1, 2021

Best of 2020 Science summaries

Sarah, Jon, and Leeta in the RV (Lumba)

Greetings,

I am currently on a COVID-safe RV vacation, but sending this via the magic of delayed delivery. I hope 2021 is off to a good start for you!

As usual, I'm kicking the new year off by providing summaries for my favorite 15 articles of 2020, so that if you missed any of them you get another chance to check them out. Despite the prominence of COVID-19 in most of our minds, I only included one of the papers I reviewed on the subject, as by now there is a lot of good information on the science available elsewhere. If you have somehow missed it this far, please do check out the summary of the paper we published on research impact last year - I am highly biased but it is my favorite!

Also - building on that paper, I'm moderating a discussion on how scientists can improve their impact with several experts on the subject (Christian Pohl, Lynn Scarlett, Mark Reed, and Yoshi Ota). It will be hosted by OCTO on Jan 28, 2021 11a-12:30p EST (4-5:30p GMT) and should be a lot of fun. You can register here.

Finally - want to work with me? My team is hiring both a human dimensions scientist and an aquatic (mostly marine) scientist. Let me know if you have questions.


If you know someone who wants to sign up to receive these summaries, they can do so at http://bit.ly/sciencejon. Here are the papers in alphabetical order:

Armsworth et al. 2020 looks at the best "bargains" for conservation: where the most species can be protected (from projected land conversion) for the lowest cost of land acquisition. In other words, how can we prevent the most species loss with a fixed budget for protection? The new spatial prioritization model this is based on goes beyond binary models (which recommend protection or not), and instead allocates funding as a continuous variable. It also considers complementarity to avoid concentrating funding in areas rich with the same species. When they run the model for the coterminous U.S., attempting to conserve all species equally leads to the Southwest being a priority (since there's lots of cheap, intact habitat). But focusing on vertebrates vulnerable to extinction, priorities pop out in Texas (due to cave ecosystems with many unique & threatened species in small places) and the Southern Appalachians. There's a great discussion of how different assumptions and data inputs impact the results. There's a blog about this article here: http://www.nimbios.org/press/FS_conservetool. Full disclosure: I'm working with the lead author on some follow-up research about trade-offs between different environmental goals.

Chaplin-Kramer et al. 2019 produced global maps summarizing ecosystem services (sort of) for coastal protection, water quality regulation, and crop pollination, now and in 2050 (under three different scenarios). One twist is that they go beyond the usual definition of ecosystem services (benefits provided by nature and received by people who need them) to also look at the 'benefit gap' where there are people with needs nature is not currently meeting (see Fig 2, bottom row, pink / lavender color). There's a lot to explore here, but one finding is that both SE Asia and Africa are expected to have increasing gaps for all three services. There's plenty of uncertainty, but this is a great set of data to think about trade-offs under different future paths. You can explore their results in a web map at http://viz.naturalcapitalproject.org/ipbes/

There have been a lot of papers documenting declines in invertebrate populations, from bees to flies, sometimes called the "insect apocalypse." But Crossley et al. 2020 use a large data set (from the Long-Term Ecological Research sites) to show that in much of the U.S., there's no clear trend (up or down) for invertebrate populations. For abundance, some species are declining in some places, others are increasing, and overall the trend is pretty stable on net (See Fig 2 for details, including the exceptions to that pattern). Diversity is similarly flat on net (see Fig 3). The discussion (on the page w/ Fig 3) of possible explanations for why this paper had different results from others is interesting. They include: 4/5 sites this paper included that another seminal paper omitted showed positive trends, total abundance trends across spp. heavily weight the most numerous spp. and dwarf other changes, and this paper relied on more recent data (where others have found a decline is slowing).

Dinerstein et al. 2020 is the latest paper advocating for conserving half of the earth (not all via legal protection). I like that they break down the primary conservation focus of each new area: rare species, distinct species assemblages (beta diversity), intact large mammal populations ('rare phenomena'), intact habitats (driven mostly by the Last of the Wild data which tends to rate rural farms as relatively intact), and high carbon stocks (see Figure 1 for a global map). Interestingly the big mammal cluster is 42% the size of current protected areas but stores 91% as much carbon. There's also a useful connectivity analysis: they find 4.3% of global land area would be needed to connect current protected areas (w/ ~3.5km wide corridors), and if their 50% target was met we'd still need 2.7% more to provide connectivity. About a third of targeted lands are indigenous territories which may already be effectively conserved in some cases. As a reminder, the 50% global target was picked arbitrarily, so describing these as 'science-based targets' is a bit misleading. They used science to identify places that add up to 50%, but the 50% overall target is NOT science-based. Check out their results at https://www.globalsafetynet.app/viewer/

Faust et al. 2018 models how different rates and amounts of habitat loss impact the risk of zoonotic disease. The primary finding is intuitive: risk is fairly low when habitat loss is either very low (few humans in contact w/ nature) or very high (few wild populations in contact w/ people). So it's the mix of humans and natural habitat that poses more risk. In general, faster land conversion reduces exposure and thus risk. However, they note that fast conversion can also rarely lead to the largest outbreaks (where a lot of displaced species interact with a large pool of human hosts who are likely to mix with other humans). Figure 2 has interesting case studies of zoonotic diseases with different transmission modes, and Figure 5 shows how infection rates vary over time depending on rate of habitat loss.

Fisher et al. 2020 is the paper I wish I had read when I started working as a scientist. It has clear recommendations for scientists to improve the impact of their research. We drew from our successes, failures, and suggestions from other colleagues and the scientific literature. Then we distilled all that into what we hope is a paper that is both practical and accessible to anyone. At a high level we recommend: (a) identify and understand the audience (or partners) for the research; (b) clarify the need for evidence; (c) gather “just enough” evidence; and (d) share and discuss the evidence. For each we talk about why it matters and how to do it. We put together a package of requested resources (listed below and all available at https://bitly.com/science-impact):

  1. The full paperhttp://impact.sciencejon.com/ (~6,000 words, but we use simple language so it’s a fairly quick and easy read). It has context for why this matters, specific recommendations, and examples of what each recommendation looks like in practice.
  2. The need for this paper is covered in a Science brief on Cool Green Science (~500 words, 2.5 min reading time) –  it briefly explains the idea of the paper and not much else. https://blog.nature.org/science/science-brief/advice-for-scientists-who-want-to-practice-science-for-impact-influence/ 
  3. The gist of the paper (a summary of the recommendations and brief examples) is available in a high level overview which also links to all of the products listed in this blog: https://bitly.com/science-impact (~900 words, ~4 min reading time). We also have a downloadable version of this overview to print and share (requested by a professor who wanted a short handout for her students) at https://www.scienceforconservation.org/assets/stories/Fisher2020-research-impact-2pager.pdf.
  4. We talk about how we wrote the paper and what surprised us when writing it in an interview with OCTO (Open Communications for the Ocean) (~1,100 words, ~5.5 min reading time). https://meam.openchannels.org/news/skimmer-marine-ecosystems-and-management/how-do-science-so-it-influences-marine-policy-and 
  5. There's more on why we wrote the paper and how scientists can start using it in a Cool Green Science interview (~2,500 words, ~12 min reading time). https://blog.nature.org/science/2020/08/17/how-to-practice-science-for-impact/
  6. Finally, if you’d prefer video to text, we have a recording of a webinar about our paper which focuses on summarizing our recommendations and how they can help scientists avoid ‘wasting’ their research (22 minute presentation plus 35 minutes of discussion). https://vimeo.com/377150591#t=121s


Gownaris et al. 2019 reviews 10 global analyses (from the UN and NGOs) of which parts of the ocean are the most important for conservation (see Table 1 for a list of criteria used to define importance in each). See Figure 2 for the key results; they found 49% of the ocean was both unprotected and identified as important by at least one analysis. 45% of the ocean wasn't listed as important by any analysis, 40% was important in only 1 analysis, 14% was important in 2-4 analyses (of which 88% was unprotected: not covered by an MPA of any level of protection), and <1% was important in 5 or more (of which 5% was unprotected). Virtually all important area was in blocks larger than 100 km2, and 97% of the area listed by at least two analyses was within exclusive economic zones (EEZs). They note that they couldn't get at efficacy or strength of protection, but this is a useful high level overview of some likely candidates for both new protection and improved management and/or protection in existing MPAs.

Greggor et al. 2020 argues that for conservation interventions to influence wildlife, it can help to think through the lens of animal cognition. It seems funny, but check out Fig 3 on “Why did (or didn’t) the chicken cross the road?” – they ask a really useful set of questions (like does the chicken see habitat on the other side and perceive it as better, does it see the road and see it as a danger, are danger cues masked, does it see the overpass and perceive it as safer, etc.). Fig 2 offers a decision tree to pick the right intervention, and the paper proceeds to offer several rules about how animal cognition and decision making tends to work to explain those recommendations. They note some limits, like omitting how animals deal w/ novelty, and how much is unknown about perception in many species.

Hansen et al. 2020 is a global analysis of moist tropical forest ecological quality and a great read. They use forests with high structural condition (meaning tall forests with several layers of understory trees and other plants, and high variation in plant size) and low human pressures as a proxy for overall ecological integrity (which typically also includes composition and function). The argument is that these forests have more habitat niches and can support more species, and that degraded structure is often due to stresses like logging which can have broad impacts (although they note limits of their approach up front). Fig 1 is a map w/ their results (& Fig 2 is a more helpful chart): they found 47% of remaining tropical moist forests had high integrity (both high structural condition and low human pressure, mapped as dark green), 33% had low structural condition (mapped as brown), and 20% had high structural condition but substantial human pressures (mapped as light green). 76% of the intact forest is in the Americas. In good news, forest w/ the best structure is being lost more slowly than more degraded forest (likely due to their remoteness, see fig 3). They have an ambitious suite of spatial recommendations in fig 4: extending protection to all remaining high integrity forests, plus restoration and working to reduce human pressure on the other forests.

Johnson et al. 2019 analyzed where it makes economic sense to protect undeveloped land within 100-year floodplains across the U.S. They compared expected flood damages (over the next 30-50 years) to land acquisition cost (to prevent development and avoid damages). They found benefits exceeded acquisition cost for about 1/3 of unprotected natural areas, and that the strongest benefits were within the 20-year floodplain but outside of the 5-year floodplain. Compared to the 5-year floodplain, these areas are more likely to get developed even though they flood less often, leading to more potential damages. Figure 3 has a map of the counties with the highest benefit:cost ratio, focused in Appalalachia, Arizona, and a mix of other places. Note that buying undeveloped lands avoids the controversy associated with asking or forcing people already living within floodplains to move.

Lau et al. 2020 is an important analysis of the scope of plastic pollution and how to reduce it. The paper found 29 Mt of plastic enters the environment each year (as of 2016, with ~1/3 going to the ocean), and plastic pollution to the ocean could triple by 2040 without immediate and sustained action. Current commitments by government and industry will only reduce the amount of plastic pollution to the ocean by 7% by 2040, but the report lays out eight measures that could reduce it by 80% by 2040 instead. There is a far better (and more thorough) summary of the paper at https://pew.org/32KPsgf

Maxwell et al. 2020 reviews how effective the last 10 years of new protected areas (PAs) have been in covering underprotected species and areas. The key finding is that PAs are not being added in the highest priority areas, and while some species are doing better than average in new protection, protection overall remains badly inadequate relative to the needs of species and ecosystems. On land PAs expanded by ~9% but only contributed to very small increases in representation (only increases in wilderness were significantly better than that 9%, while carbon and terrestrial key biodiversity areas expanded less than 9%, Fig 3b). At sea PAs more than doubled in area (+160%), with corals, cartilaginous fishes (like sharks), marine wilderness, and pelagic (open ocean) areas doing even better than that. But the expansion of marine PAs underperformed in increasing representation of marine reptiles & mammals, bony fishes, key biodiversity areas, and several others. The authors call for more transparency around decisions to add or expand (or shrink) PAs, improved recognition and management of Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures, better planning for climate change, more financing for protection and management, and more.

Global estimates of % protection hide the fact that protection varies widely for different ecosystems and habitat types. Sayre et al. 2020 splits that up into 278 natural ecosystems (based on temperature, moisture, elevation, land cover, etc). If you limit protection to IUCN 1-4 (stricter protection), 9 of those 278 were totally unprotected and 206 were below 8.5% protected (half way to Aichi targets). If you use IUCN 1-6 (including  areas allowing more human use) only 1/3 of ecosystems are below 8.5%. Table 5 shows how much of each major land cover group (forests, grasslands, etc.) has been lost, Table 4 has the details for the 278 ecosystems. Some figures are easier to see online: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2351989419307231?via%3Dihub

Skidmore et al. 2015 calls for the creation of a global standard for how to measure biodiversity using satellites. The ten variables they recommend are species occurrence, plant traits (e.g. specific leaf area or leaf N content), ecosystem distribution, fragmentation & heterogeneity, land cover, vegetation height, fire occurrence, vegetation phenology (variability), primary productivity & leaf area index, and inundation (presence of standing water).

Wilhere et al. 2012 is a critique of one of the many 'half earth' papers arguing we need to effectively conserve at least half of the earth to avoid unacceptable biodiversity loss (Noss et al. 2012). The critique is similar to the Wilhere 2008 paper: the half earth target is presented as a "strict scientific point of view" without recognizing the value judgments that inform the results. They call for papers like Noss' to clearly articular the values of the author, and evaluate multiple policy options reflecting different values.

REFERENCES:
Bloomfield, L. S. P., McIntosh, T. L., & Lambin, E. F. (2020). Habitat fragmentation, livelihood behaviors, and contact between people and nonhuman primates in Africa. Landscape Ecology, 35(4), 985–1000. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-020-00995-w

Goldstein, A., Turner, W. R., Spawn, S. A., Anderson-Teixeira, K. J., Cook-Patton, S., Fargione, J., … Hole, D. G. (2020). Protecting irrecoverable carbon in Earth’s ecosystems. Nature Climate Change, 10(4), 287–295. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0738-8

Johnson, C. K., Hitchens, P. L., Pandit, P. S., Rushmore, J., Evans, T. S., Young, C. C. W., & Doyle, M. M. (2020). Global shifts in mammalian population trends reveal key predictors of virus spillover risk. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 287(1924), 20192736. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.2736

Masuda, Y. J., Fisher, J. R. B., Zhang, W., Castilla, C., Boucher, T. M., & Blundo-Canto, G. (2020). A respondent-driven method for mapping small agricultural plots using tablets and high resolution imagery. Journal of International Development. https://doi.org/10.1002/jid.3475

Morse, S. S., Mazet, J. A. K., Woolhouse, M., Parrish, C. R., Carroll, D., Karesh, W. B., … Daszak, P. (2012). Prediction and prevention of the next pandemic zoonosis. The Lancet, 380(9857), 1956–1965. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61684-5

Smith, K. F., & Guégan, J.-F. (2010). Changing Geographic Distributions of Human Pathogens. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 41(1), 231–250. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-102209-144634

Tessum, C. W., Apte, J. S., Goodkind, A. L., Muller, N. Z., Mullins, K. A., Paolella, D. A., … Hill, J. D. (2019). Inequity in consumption of goods and services adds to racial–ethnic disparities in air pollution exposure. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(13), 6001–6006. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1818859116

Woolhouse, M. E. J., & Gowtage-Sequeria, S. (2005). Host range and emerging and reemerging pathogens. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 11(12), 1842–1847. https://doi.org/10.3201/eid1112.050997

Wu, X., Nethery, R. C., Sabath, B. M., Braun, D., & Dominici, F. (2020). Exposure to air pollution and COVID-19 mortality in the United States. MedRxiv, 2020.04.05.20054502. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.04.05.20054502

Zhang, Q., Zheng, Y., Tong, D., Shao, M., Wang, S., Zhang, Y., … Hao, J. (2019). Drivers of improved PM 2.5 air quality in China from 2013 to 2017. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(49), 24463–24469. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1907956116


Sincerely,
 
Jon

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

December 2020 science article summary

Cracking pecans with a garlic press

Hello,

I've been falling behind on my science reading lately, but given the recent fires in the Pantanal (a South American wetland region) I thought I'd include a few papers on that, plus one bonus paper on fencing & wildlife. Next month I'll send out my usual "best of 2020" recap of my favorite articles that I read this year. 

If you know someone who wants to sign up to receive these summaries, they can do so at http://bit.ly/sciencejon

PANTANAL:
Alho and Sabino 2012 is a nice overview of the hydrology & biodiversity of the Pantanal, and how it has been modified by human activities. It covers the seasonal flooding (which inundates ~40-80% of the area), and how that relates to the species known to occur there (and notes that there are certainly a number of species not yet described by Western science). They flag hydroelectric dams and deforestation (mostly for pasture and farms) as two key threats to the hydrology. Dams reduce the floods in the wet season, and deforestation has reduced water retention, increased evaporative losses, and introduced invasive grass species which make the area more susceptible to fire. They also note overfishing, water pollution, and roads as additional threats.

de Oliveira 2014 compared riparian forests that were unburned to others that had burned roughly every four years, with variation in flooding frequency in both. They found that fire didn't affect species richness, but did reduce stem density and also substantially affected the species composition / proportion (with relatively few species in burned areas accounting for most of the plants in those areas, Fig 4). More days of floods reduced both species richness and stem density.

Lázaro et al. 2020 uses data on rain, streamflow, and satellite imagery to evaluate how the Northern Pantanal's hydrology has changed in recent years. They found that the Northern Pantanal has 13% more days without rain compared to the 1960s, plus a 16% drop in inundated area in August (the peak of the dry season) from 2008 to 2018. These changes are likely driven by both lower rainfall (delayed onset and shorter duration of the rainy season over the last decade) and hydrological modifications. Given the critical role of flooding to the Pantanal's ecology, this is a major threat to the viability of the ecosystems in the Pantanal. They note deforestation, water pollution from agriculture, and dredging for the passage of boats to ship agricultural commodities as additional threats beyond the changing hydrology.

Santos et al. 2020 reviews how one family of bats responded to 2005 fires in the Pantanal. They sampled six small forest patches (0.5-5 ha) both immediately and 3 months after a fire, of which three were completely burned, one was partially burned, and two were entirely unburned. They found that predatory bats were most abundant in burned patches right after the fire, but 3 months later those predators had been entirely replaced with few species of generalist fruit-eating bats (with the predators returning to unburned sites). It's a very small study on one family of bats, so may or may not be representative of fire response in the Pantanal more broadly.

Schulz et al. 2019 is an overview of the Pantanal, including it's environmental history, biodiversity, traditional use and management by humans (for fishing and low-intensity ranching), and current threats. It's a dense read with lots of good information, but the loss of traditional ecological knowledge is flagged as one interesting threat. Other key threats include deforestation, changing hydrology (from hydropower dams, deforestation, and climate change), river dredging, agricultural intensification, water pollution from upland areas near the Pantanal, overfishing (recreational and commercial). They find relatively little quantitative socio-economic data, lack of distinction between different subregions of the Pantanal, and many more research gaps.


WILDLIFE MIGRATION / FENCING:
McInturff et al. 2020 calls for 'fence ecology' as needing synthesis of existing research as well as more mapping and analysis of fences. The lack of good data on fences mean that barriers to migration and human footprint are likely underestimated. They model fence densities across most of 9 states in the Western US (Figure 2). They have a great summary of which species and ecosystem traits benefit or are harmed by different kinds of fences (Table 1), and even provide a typology of ecological impacts (Table 2), while noting that for every winner there are multiple losers. Finally, they synthesize 446 fencing studies and note several biases and related gaps. They found that research has focused on: economically important medium-sized ungulates (table 3), small plots (as opposed to large landscapes), few countries (the U.S., China, Australia, Botswana, and South Africa account for more than half of studies), conservation fencing (with livestock fencing and other kinds understudied), and impacts on the species a fence was built for (~2/3 of studies only studied impact on the target species as opposed to other species which may be impacted). They close by calling for policy action on wildlife-friendly fencing design and placement, and on removing fencing (and limiting new construction). There's a blog about this paper at https://theconversation.com/fences-have-big-effects-on-land-and-wildlife-around-the-world-that-are-rarely-measured-147797

Laskin et al. 2020 compares how different fence designs fare at preventing bison from crossing while letting other wildlife pass through. As you might expect, the most open fence was the most permeable for wildlife (with just 2 wires, 80cm and 100cm off the ground). The authors found that they could adjust the fence to a 5-wire configuration as needed to better contain bison despite being worse for wildlife, then adjust it back to 2-wire when bison are no longer expected to interact with the fence.


REFERENCES:
Alho, C. J. R., & Sabino, J. (2012). Seasonal Pantanal Flood Pulse: Implications for Biodiversity Conservation – a Review. Oecologia Australis, 16(4), 958–978. https://doi.org/10.4257/oeco.2012.1604.17

de Oliveira, M. T., Damasceno-Junior, G. A., Pott, A., Paranhos Filho, A. C., Suarez, Y. R., & Parolin, P. (2014). Regeneration of riparian forests of the Brazilian Pantanal under flood and fire influence. Forest Ecology and Management, 331, 256–263. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2014.08.011

Laskin, D. N., Watt, D., Whittington, J., & Heuer, K. (2020). Designing a fence that enables free passage of wildlife while containing reintroduced bison: a multispecies evaluation. Wildlife Biology, 2020(4). https://doi.org/10.2981/wlb.00751

Lázaro, W. L., & Oliveira-júnior, E. S. (2020). Thematic Section : Opinions about Aquatic Ecology in a Changing World Climate change reflected in one of the largest wetlands in the world : an overview of the Northern Pantanal water regime. Acta Limnologica Brasiliensia, 32, 8.

McInturff, A., Xu, W., Wilkinson, C. E., Dejid, N., & Brashares, J. S. (2020). Fence Ecology: Frameworks for Understanding the Ecological Effects of Fences. BioScience, 70(11), 971–985. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biaa103

Santos, C. F., Teixeira, R. C., Raizer, J., & Fischer, E. (2020). Post-fire phyllostomid assemblages in forest patches of the Pantanal wetland. Mammalia, 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1515/mammalia-2020-0037

Schulz, C., Whitney, B. S., Rossetto, O. C., Neves, D. M., Crabb, L., de Oliveira, E. C., … Saito, C. H. (2019). Physical, ecological and human dimensions of environmental change in Brazil’s Pantanal wetland: Synthesis and research agenda. Science of the Total Environment, 687, 1011–1027. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.06.023


Sincerely,
 
Jon
 
p.s. If you'd like to keep track of what I write as well as what I read, I always link to both my informal blog posts and my formal publications (plus these summaries) at http://sciencejon.blogspot.com/

Monday, November 2, 2020

November 2020 Science Article Summary

Joe-O-Lantern

Happy post-Halloween!

This month I have five big global conservation papers, plus two on wildlife migrations. Also - my team is hiring! You can find out more and apply here: https://jobs-pct.icims.com/jobs/6374/job and let me know if you have any questions.

If you know someone who wants to sign up to receive these summaries, they can do so at http://bit.ly/sciencejon


GLOBAL CONSERVATION:
Dinerstein et al. 2020 is the latest paper advocating for conserving half of the earth (not all via legal protection). I like that they break down the primary conservation focus of each new area: rare species, distinct species assemblages (beta diversity), intact large mammal populations ('rare phenomena'), intact habitats (driven mostly by the Last of the Wild data which tends to rate rural farms as relatively intact), and high carbon stocks (see Figure 1 for a global map). Interestingly the big mammal cluster is 42% the size of current protected areas but stores 91% as much carbon. There's also a useful connectivity analysis: they find 4.3% of global land area would be needed to connect current protected areas (w/ ~3.5km wide corridors), and if their 50% target was met we'd still need 2.7% more to provide connectivity. About a third of targeted lands are indigenous territories which may already be effectively conserved in some cases. As a reminder, the 50% global target was picked arbitrarily, so describing these as 'science-based targets' is a bit misleading. They used science to identify places that add up to 50%, but the 50% overall target is NOT science-based. Check out their results at https://www.globalsafetynet.app/viewer/

Maxwell et al. 2020 reviews how effective the last 10 years of new protected areas (PAs) have been in covering underprotected species and areas. The key finding is that PAs are not being added in the highest priority areas, and while some species are doing better than average in new protection, protection overall remains badly inadequate relative to the needs of species and ecosystems. On land PAs expanded by ~9% but only contributed to very small increases in representation (only increases in wilderness were significantly better than that 9%, while carbon and terrestrial key biodiversity areas expanded less than 9%, Fig 3b). At sea PAs more than doubled in area (+160%), with corals, cartilaginous fishes (like sharks), marine wilderness, and pelagic (open ocean) areas doing even better than that. But the expansion of marine PAs underperformed in increasing representation of marine reptiles & mammals, bony fishes, key biodiversity areas, and several others. The authors call for more transparency around decisions to add or expand (or shrink) PAs, improved recognition and management of Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures, better planning for climate change, more financing for protection and management, and more.

Strassburg et al. 2020 is a global prioritization of where to restore ecosystems on land. As with similar analyses they find we could achieve more at lower cost if we use analyses like theirs to drive the work. Fig 3 has the best comparison of cost and environmental benefits, while Fig 1 has maps of priority areas. However,  Maxwell et al. 2020 is a reminder that these decisions are NOT typically driven like papers like this, and Fig 1e raises immediate concerns about the likelihood of proposing to restore most of the Philippines and Indonesia, or 96% of converted habitat in the Caribbean. Scenario VI in Fig 3 shows how much lower the environmental benefits are (and that the cost is higher) if each country restores their highest priority 15% of lands relative to what's possible by concentrating restoration in relatively few countries (scenarios I-III). Despite the challenges, this paper does make a key point: given the relatively high cost of restoration relative to protecting intact habitat, it's important that we stretch those dollars by picking the right places to restore (including likelihood that restored lands won't get quickly reconverted).

The 5th Global Biodiversity Outlook report has mostly bad news - none of the 20 targets set in 2010 for 2020 have been met, although 6/20 have been partially achieved. Check out page 6 of the summary for policymakers for the results (green means met, yellow some progress, red no progress, and purple negative progress). Some of these are optimistic, e.g., it's very optimistic to assume that not only will 10% of the ocean be protected this year but that they will focus on areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services. But you can read more about why they rated it this way on page 82 of the full report. It's worth at least looking at the high level scores for everything, and digging into the ones most relevant to your work.

van Rees et al. 2020 has 14 recommendations to improve freshwater outcomes in  the next version of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as well as the EU's biodiversity strategy. In brief, they are: don't lump freshwater in w/ lands and ocean when planning, recognize their role in supporting human life, recognize the importance of connectivity and barriers (like dams), manage freshwater ecosystems at the watershed / catchment scale, use systems thinking to consider trade-offs like how hydropower or intensive ag impacts on freshwater systems compared to others, improve existing freshwater protected areas (via restoration, management, and enforcement), use 'flagship umbrella species' to get freshwater biodiversity more attention, do more research on invasive species and how they impact freshwater ecosystems, improve monitoring of freshwater ecosystems, improve freshwater data's accessibility, use novel methods to monitor biodiversity like environmental DNA (eDNA) or digital text analysis, use strategic spatial planning, use more global data (like Red-Listed species) in national and local decision-making, and seek to better integrate top-down decision making by experts (due to technical complexity) with bottom-up stakeholder-driven approaches.


WILDLIFE MIGRATION:
Greggor et al. 2020 argues that for conservation interventions to influence wildlife, it can help to think through the lens of animal cognition. It seems funny, but check out Fig 3 on “Why did (or didn’t) the chicken cross the road?” – they ask a really useful set of questions (like does the chicken see habitat on the other side and perceive it as better, does it see the road and see it as a danger, are danger cues masked, does it see the overpass and perceive it as safer, etc.). Fig 2 offers a decision tree to pick the right intervention, and the paper proceeds to offer several rules about how animal cognition and decision making tends to work to explain those recommendations. They note some limits, like omitting how animals deal w/ novelty, and how much is unknown about perception in many species.

Testud et al. 2020 evaluated crossings of amphibians (newts, frogs, toads, & salamanders) in tunnels under high-speed rail. Shorter tunnels led to more successful (complete) crossings for most species (but not toads), and broadcasting audio of frog mating calls led to a big increase in successful crossings (and crossing speed) for the one frog species who was included in the recordings. It would be interesting to follow up to see if more complex audio representing more species would work better, and even whether this approach might work for mammals as well.


REFERENCES:
Dinerstein, E., Joshi, A. R., Vynne, C., Lee, A. T. L., Pharand-Deschênes, F., França, M., … Olson, D. (2020). A “Global Safety Net” to reverse biodiversity loss and stabilize Earth’s climate. Science Advances, 6(36), eabb2824. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abb2824

Greggor, A. L., Berger-Tal, O., & Blumstein, D. T. (2020). The Rules of Attraction: The Necessary Role of Animal Cognition in Explaining Conservation Failures and Successes. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 51(1), annurev-ecolsys-011720-103212. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-011720-103212

Maxwell, S. L., Cazalis, V., Dudley, N., Hoffmann, M., Rodrigues, A. S. L., Stolton, S., … Watson, J. E. M. (2020). Area-based conservation in the twenty-first century. Nature, 586(7828), 217–227. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2773-z

Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. (2020). Global Biodiversity Outlook 5. Montreal, 208 pages. Available at https://www.cbd.int/gbo5

Strassburg, B. B. N., Iribarrem, A., Beyer, H. L., Cordeiro, C. L., Crouzeilles, R., Jakovac, C. C., … Visconti, P. (2020). Global priority areas for ecosystem restoration. Nature, (August 2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2784-9

Testud, G., Fauconnier, C., Labarraque, D., Lengagne, T., Lepetitcorps, Q., Picard, D., & Miaud, C. (2020). Acoustic enrichment in wildlife passages under railways improves their use by amphibians. Global Ecology and Conservation, e01252. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2020.e01252

van Rees, C. B., Waylen, K. A., Schmidt‐Kloiber, A., Thackeray, S. J., Kalinkat, G., Martens, K., … Jähnig, S. C. (2020). Safeguarding freshwater life beyond 2020: Recommendations for the new global biodiversity framework from the European experience. Conservation Letters, (April), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12771



Sincerely,
 
Jon

Sunday, September 13, 2020

How scientists can improve their impact

Dog resting her head on her paws

This May a paper we've been working hard on for about 2.5 years finally came out! The basic idea is to provide tips for scientists to improve the chances that their research will have its desired impact. Essentially it's the paper my co-authors and I wish we had when we were starting as scientists. The dog picture above is 100% unrelated, sorry.

We have talked about this paper with well over a hundred people, and they all liked different things, and had different requests for accompaniments to it! Some wanted more context, some wanted a super-short version of it, some wanted video, etc. So we put together a whole package of resources (listed below and all available at https://bitly.com/science-impact); please take a look at whatever appeals to you.

  1. The full paperhttp://impact.sciencejon.com/ (~6,000 words, but we use simple language so it’s a fairly quick and easy read). It has context for why this matters, specific recommendations, and examples of what each recommendation looks like in practice.
  2. The need for this paper is covered in a Science brief on Cool Green Science (~500 words, 2.5 min reading time) –  it briefly explains the idea of the paper and not much else.
  3. The gist of the paper (a summary of the recommendations and brief examples) is available in a high level overview which also links to all of the products listed in this blog: https://bitly.com/science-impact (~900 words, ~4 min reading time). We also have a downloadable version of this overview to print and share (requested by a professor who wanted a short handout for her students).
  4. We talk about how we wrote the paper and what surprised us when writing it in an interview with OCTO (Open Communications for the Ocean) (~1,100 words, ~5.5 min reading time).
  5. There's more on why we wrote the paper and how scientists can start using it in a Cool Green Science interview (~2,500 words, ~12 min reading time).
  6. Finally, if you’d prefer video to text, we have a recording of a webinar about our paper which focuses on summarizing our recommendations and how they can help scientists avoid ‘wasting’ their research (22 minute presentation plus 35 minutes of discussion)

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

September 2020 science article summary

Millipede with witches butter fungus 

Greetings,

This is another short summary with just four articles on biodiversity (bugs in the US, global indicators, tropical moist forest quality, and bias in conservation textbooks in terms of which taxa etc. get featured).

If you know someone who wants to sign up to receive these summaries, they can do so at http://bit.ly/sciencejon (no need to email me).

BIODIVERSITY:
There have been a lot of papers documenting declines in invertebrate populations, from bees to flies, sometimes called the "insect apocalypse." But Crossley et al. 2020 use a large data set (from the Long-Term Ecological Research sites) to show that in much of the U.S., there's no clear trend (up or down). For abundance, some species are declining in some places, others are increasing, and overall the trend is pretty stable on net (See Fig 2 for details, including the exceptions to that pattern). Diversity is similarly flat on net (see Fig 3). The discussion (on the page w/ Fig 3) of possible explanations for why this paper had different results from others is interesting. They include: 4/5 sites this paper included that another seminal paper omitted showed positive trends, total abundance trends across spp. heavily weight the most numerous spp. and dwarf other changes, and this paper relied on more recent data (where others have found a decline is slowing).

Hansen et al. 2020 is a global analysis of moist tropical forest ecological quality and a great read. They use forests with high structural condition (meaning tall forests with several layers of understory trees and other plants, and high variation in plant size) and low human pressures as a proxy for overall ecological integrity (which typically also includes composition and function). The argument is that these forests have more habitat niches and can support more species, and that degraded structure is often due to stresses like logging which can have broad impacts (although they note limits of their approach up front). Fig 1 is a map w/ their results (& Fig 2 is a more helpful chart): they found 47% of remaining tropical moist forests had high integrity (both high structural condition and low human pressure, mapped as dark green), 33% had low structural condition (mapped as brown), and 20% had high structural condition but substantial human pressures (mapped as light green). 76% of the intact forest is in the Americas. In good news, forest w/ the best structure is being lost more slowly than more degraded forest (likely due to their remoteness, see fig 3). They have an ambitious suite of spatial recommendations in fig 4: extending protection to all remaining high integrity forests, plus restoration and working to reduce human pressure on the other forests.

Hoban et al. 2020 argue that new indicators are needed for a post-2020 CBD global framework for biodiversity. They recommend three new indicators: 1) # populations with effective population size above 500, 2) # current populations / # historic baseline of populations, 3) # species & populations w/ DNA-based genetic diversity monitoring, as well as keeping two existing CBD indicators (comprehensiveness of conservation of all species; and # of resilient, representative, and replicated plant genetic resources secured in medium or long-term conservation facilities). It's a fairly simple approach (albeit hard to empirically measure) for genetic biodiversity indicators.
 
Stahl et al. 2020 looked at 7 recent conservation textbooks and bias in what they focus on relative to natural prevalence (Fig 5 has a good summary). Some bias comes from underlying factors (research doesn't focus on species in proportion to their prevalence, more funding goes to charismatic species and richer countries), but regardless of the source they compared the proportion of examples to their prevalence on Earth. As you'd expect, the books favor examples using mammals over amphibians, North America over other continents, forests & coral reefs over other ecosystems, and tropical over temperate regions. It's an interesting topic, but there is at least one error (they claim only 3 of the textbooks mention ecoregions, but one of the other 4 discusses them at some length including an ecoregional map I created) which makes me wonder what else they could have gotten wrong (the author is looking into it and will get back to me). Ironically, the authors don't comment on potential bias in how they selected textbooks (e.g. only English language) or the methods they used (a focus on proportion of examples regardless of their value in explaining concepts). 

REFERENCES:
Crossley, M. S., Meier, A. R., Baldwin, E. M., Berry, L. L., Crenshaw, L. C., Hartman, G. L., … Moran, M. D. (2020). No net insect abundance and diversity declines across US Long Term Ecological Research sites. Nature Ecology & Evolution, (Table 1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1269-4

Hansen, A. J., Burns, P., Ervin, J., Goetz, S. J., Hansen, M., Venter, O., … Armenteras, D. (2020). A policy-driven framework for conserving the best of Earth’s remaining moist tropical forests. Nature Ecology & Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1274-7

Hoban, S., Bruford, M., D’Urban Jackson, J., Lopes-Fernandes, M., Heuertz, M., Hohenlohe, P. A., … Laikre, L. (2020). Genetic diversity targets and indicators in the CBD post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework must be improved. Biological Conservation, 248, 108654. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108654

Stahl, K., Lepczyk, C. A., & Christoffel, R. A. (2020). Evaluating conservation biology texts for bias in biodiversity representation. PLoS ONE, 15(7), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234877



Sincerely,
 
Jon

Monday, August 3, 2020

August 2020 science article summary

Passion flower

Hello,

I'm on vacation in the woods with no phone or internet access, but sending this via the magic of delayed delivery. Getting away from people doesn't have as much allure these days, but getting away from the news does!

I've been looking at a lot of papers lately around big global conservation goals (which should be interesting to most), as well as more technical papers around metrics and indicators (with less broad appeal). There's also a very cool paper just out in Science on plastic pollution (and how to reduce it), and a paper from Chile finding that subsidies to plant trees had the side-effect of increasing forest cover loss (while dramatically expanding plantations).

If you know someone who wants to sign up to receive these summaries, they can do so at http://bit.ly/sciencejon

PLASTIC POLLUTION
Lau et al. 2020 is an important analysis of the scope of plastic pollution and how to reduce it. The paper found 29 Mt of plastic enters the environment each year (as of 2016, with ~1/3 going to the ocean), and plastic pollution to the ocean could triple by 2040 without immediate and sustained action. Current commitments by government and industry will only reduce the amount of plastic pollution to the ocean by 7% by 2040, but the report lays out eight measures that could reduce it by 80% by 2040 instead. There is a far better (and more thorough) summary of the paper at https://pew.org/32KPsgf


CONSERVATION GOALS
Bhola et al. 2020 sums up four different philosophies or perspectives for setting global conservation goals. 1) extending Aichi biodiversity target #11 (protecting & managing 17% of land and inland water, plus 10% coastal and marine, while considering biodiversity, equity, ecosystem services, and connectivity) to 2030 and ensuring the qualitative piece is achieved. 2) Big area-based goals like 'half earth' or protecting 30% of the earth by 2030 (still ensuring that the right places get protected). 3) ‘New conservation’ (broadening the tent for conservation via ecosystem services, ecotourism, and the private sector). 4) ‘Whole earth’ conservation which attacks root causes of habitat loss like inequality and economic growth (while arguing against separating people from nature). It's a quick read but start w/ Table 1 for a summary of the four perspectives, and Figure 1 which shows how the choice of goal (in this case, biodiversity vs. ecosystem service production) affects which areas you’d want to protect. 

Allan et al 2019 is a preprint (not peer reviewed yet) but has some weight behind it via the author list. Their approach was to start with the union of all Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), all wilderness areas, and all current protected areas, then see how much extra land was needed to capture enough of the range of ~29k spp. to enable their persistence. Their answer is that we need 44% of the land on earth for conservation. Note that they do NOT say 44% should be legally protected, but rather than it should be managed via a range of strategies. While there's no one single "right answer" to how much land we need (since it depends on your values, and on the assumptions and data you use), this is one of many defensible ways to approach this.

Gownaris et al. 2019 reviews 10 global analyses (from the UN and NGOs) of which parts of the ocean are the most important for conservation (see Table 1 for a list of criteria used to define importance in each). See Figure 2 for the key results; they found 49% of the ocean was both unprotected and identified as important by at least one analysis. 45% of the ocean wasn't listed as important by any analysis, 40% was important in only 1 analysis, 14% was important in 2-4 analyses (of which 88% was unprotected: not covered by an MPA of any level of protection), and <1% was important in 5 or more (of which 5% was unprotected). Virtually all important area was in blocks larger than 100 km2, and 97% of the area listed by at least two analyses was within exclusive economic zones (EEZs). They note that they couldn't get at efficacy or strength of protection, but this is a useful high level overview of some likely candidates for both new protection and improved management and/or protection in existing MPAs.


METRICS:
Fraser et al. 2006 discusses three case studies where communities were involved in choosing sustainability indicators (both environmental and human), along with external experts. Each case talks about the process they used to choose indicators, and shares example indicators. They found participatory indicator development is complex and slow (sometimes preventing use by policy makers), but empowers communities. Table 1 has some human wellbeing indicators (including some flagged as unmeasurable but representing important gaps in knowledge). Table 3 shows environmental indicators seen as providing early warning of pastoral degradation. Table 4 has a broad suite of categories of metrics (w/o detail on how to measure them) for both human and environmental issues.

Tucker et al. 2017 is an overview of metrics of phylogenetic diversity (which they break into richness, divergence / relatedness, and regularity). There is a highly technical review of 70 specific metrics, followed by a note on other key considerations like abundance, how to weight rare vs common species, and how to deal with correlations related to species richness. This could be a useful reference to someone at a project scale who really wanted to think hard about how to measure biodiversity.


LAND COVER CHANGE / CLIMATE:
Heilmayr et al. 2020 found that subsidies in Chile to increase tree cover actually led to expansion of exotic plantations (doubling in size from 1986-2011), but decreased native forests (by 13%). They estimate that biodiversity probably declined as well, while aboveground carbon only increased by 2% despite the expansion of plantations.


REFERENCES:

Allan, J. R., Possingham, H. P., Atkinson, S. C., Waldron, A., Marco, M. Di, Adams, V. M., … Watson, J. E. M. (2019). Conservation attention necessary across at least 44% of Earth’s terrestrial area to safeguard biodiversity. BioRxiv, (November), 839977. https://doi.org/10.1101/839977

Bhola, N., Klimmek, H., Kingston, N., Burgess, N. D., Soesbergen, A., Corrigan, C., … Kok, M. T. J. (2020). Perspectives on area‐based conservation and its meaning for future biodiversity policy. Conservation Biology, 00(0), cobi.13509. https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13509

Fraser, E. D. G., Dougill, A. J., Mabee, W. E., Reed, M., & McAlpine, P. (2006). Bottom up and top down: Analysis of participatory processes for sustainability indicator identification as a pathway to community empowerment and sustainable environmental management. Journal of Environmental Management, 78(2), 114–127. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2005.04.009

Gownaris, N. J., Santora, C. M., Davis, J. B., & Pikitch, E. K. (2019). Gaps in Protection of Important Ocean Areas: A Spatial Meta-Analysis of Ten Global Mapping Initiatives. Frontiers in Marine Science, 6(October 2019), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2019.00650

Heilmayr, R., Echeverría, C., & Lambin, E. F. (2020). Impacts of Chilean forest subsidies on forest cover, carbon and biodiversity. Nature Sustainability. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-0547-0

Lau, W. W. Y., Shiran, Y., Bailey, R. M., Cook, E., Stuchtey, M. R., Koskella, J., … Palardy, J. E. (2020). Evaluating scenarios toward zero plastic pollution. Science, 21(1), eaba9475. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aba9475

Tucker, C. M., Cadotte, M. W., Carvalho, S. B., Jonathan Davies, T., Ferrier, S., Fritz, S. A., … Mazel, F. (2017). A guide to phylogenetic metrics for conservation, community ecology and macroecology. Biological Reviews, 92(2), 698–715. https://doi.org/10.1111/brv.12252


Sincerely,
 
Jon