Recap: Global Change and Resilience Reading Group – Matches and Mismatches Between Global Conservation Efforts and Global Conservation Priorities

The Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center and HazNerds recently launched the Global Change and Resilience Reading Group, open to all interested students and faculty in the Triangle area. This group was created with the intent of collaborating across disciplines to discuss current publications on the topics of global change and resilience. Interested in attending the next meeting? The group will meet next on October 9th at 12:00pm in 123 David Clark Labs. Be sure to sign up here and the article of the week will be sent directly to your inbox! We are now offering a remote option to participate in the reading group! If you would like to participate remotely, please contact Olivia Vila at ofvila@ncsu.edu.

The second Global Change and Resilience Group meeting convened on September 25th.  Students, professors, and staff from a variety of departments across NC State campus gathered to discuss the paper, “Matches and Mismatches Between Global Conservation Efforts and Global Conservation Priorities.”

Conserving biodiversity is crucial to protecting ecosystem services which are estimated to be worth over $127 trillion USD per year. With continued mismanagement, the authors suggest that the value of these ecosystems could be cut in half by 2050. Thus, there is an urgent global need to understand whether conservation resources and efforts are being appropriately allocated to the habitats and species that most need those resources. Researchers used the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List to assess the following three conservation measures for species at a high extinction risk: 1) staff time spent by the largest cluster of conservation organizations in the world, 2) efforts by international NGOs through social media, and 3) global conservation research publications since the year 2000.

Their analysis determined that while conservation research has grown rapidly, it is not proportionally distributed across the number of high risk extinction species for each Red List Threat or Habitat. In general, global conservation efforts are aligned with global conservation priorities, however there are some overlooked areas. While marine and climate change efforts receive more attention than expected, shrublands and rocky habitats receive disproportionately little investment in relation to the number of species at high extinction risk that reside in those areas.

Interestingly, when surveyed about where they would like to see funding and job priorities re-allocated, conservation practitioners would still prioritize their time and attention to forests, wetlands, and marine habitats (58%), while deserts would receive double the time (1% – 2%). Agriculture and biological resource use threats would still receive 36%, while climate change would receive significantly more time (8% – 13%). The authors suggest that the global conservation community should reassess and improve the allocation of resources based on the number of threats faced and number of species at risk of extinction for each habitat type. While perfectly aligning these goals is objectively unrealistic, this article provides additional context that can allow researchers to better understand the disparities and advance the ability to achieve that goal.

Discussion Questions:

  • How may what you’ve learned in this article about the misalignment of conservation priorities and research affect how you approach your work in your respective fields?
  • Climate change, agriculture, and biological resource use accounted for 52% of threat-related Twitter posts while invasive species receive very little attention on Twitter, despite posing a high extinction risk to over 10,000 species. Since the public’s actions could have a direct effect on these measures, do you think that there is a higher priority to distribute that information across media channels?
  • Marine habitats contain relatively fewer (422) high extinction risk species but receive more attention than expected across all measures. Do you think there is a social element to this, especially because this study has a focus on Twitter activity? Perhaps the public and stakeholders are more familiar with these environments or species, thus they may receive more funding/support by bringing attention to familiar causes.
  • Is there potential for overlap or emerging co-benefits within the research efforts of the higher and lower priority groups identified in this study?

Overall, we had a collaborative discussion with input from a wide variety of perspectives and are looking forward to next week’s meeting! Join us as we discuss “The case for systems thinking about climate change and mental health.”

Flyer promoting the Global Change and Resilience Reading Group. The meeting dates listed are 9/25, 10/9, 10/23, 11/6, 11/20, and 12/4.

| Summary by Ashlyn Shore, Southeast CASC |