The Missing Conservation Knowledge Product: measuring and mitigating threats and pressures on biodiversity: October 2017 interim blog entry

31 Oct 2017

Data on threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services are available in multiple locations, on numerous systems, and in a plethora of formats and scales while not all are open and accessible to the user community. This makes using the available data in a concerted effort to address multiple threats in one place or one threat in many places impossible for any scientist or practitioner. This project, a collaboration between UNEP-WCMC, IUCN, BirdLife International, the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology, Microsoft Research, ZSL, WWF UK, the Luc Hoffman Institute, and the University of Oxford, will mobilise existing but sparse and hardly accessible metadata on threats in a centralised online resource, and will allow conservation scientists to analyse and digitize threat maps in a workshop setting. This will facilitate targeted research to close these knowledge gaps, make searches for spatial threat data more efficient, and link the mapped threats to evidence from the conservation literature. Overall, this project aims to strengthen efforts to mitigate or eradicate threats entirely through improved knowledge sharing.

For further information, please visit the project page on the CCI website.

The following blog is written by Dr Brian O'Connor, Programme Officer, UNEP-WCMC (Project Team Member).

October 2017 interim blog entry

Over the past six months, we have achieved the following:

  • Administered a survey on the requirements of the user community for mapping and managing threats to biodiversity. This has now been closed and received 91 respondents.
  • WCMC hosted an intern (PhD) student from King’s College London from May to mid-July 2017 to work on the metadatabase of threat datasets and administration of the survey
  • IUCN, with support from Microsoft Research, got the Conservation Mapping Application ready for field testing at the Sunda Pangolin Conservation Planning workshop held at Singapore Zoo in June 2017 (see image in page header). There were 50 participants at the workshop from 5 countries, a good opportunity to use expert knowledge to map threats to the Sunda Pangolin to inform the development of the Conservation Strategy for the species. One issue which arose which needs further discussion is how best to map a pervasive threat like poaching which occurs across the whole range of a species; mapping this as a series of polygons avoiding major metropolitan areas was extremely time consuming. Overall the Mapping Application worked well, was user friendly and the team found having the protected areas layer included to be a real bonus; so getting additional layers added in future will be very beneficial.  IUCN is in discussion with a PhD student from Newcastle University who is studying 24 species of Galliforme birds in the Himalayas; she is keen to map the threats to the species using the Application
  • WCMC Informatics team have begun to think about the kind of solutions possible to address user requirements including sketching out user journeys and profiling specific use cases.

A progress meeting was held on 22 June 2017 for all project partners to reengage with the project and its objectives since the kick off meeting in December 2016 and to ensure that each partner has made some progress on their tasks. The second part of the meeting was more of an interactive workshop where two user journeys were presented on behalf of a typical user of spatial biodiversity threat data: 

  1. An IUCN SSC assessor at an expert assessment workshop
  2. An NGO interested in mapping local to regional threat impacts for a species/taxa, e.g. amphibians and roads

WCMC also presented the results of their internal working session (held 24 May) on use cases for a threat knowledge product. A repeat of this working session then followed with the CCI partners present. The minutes of the meeting and the outcomes of the two working session (tabulated in matrix format – key question and conservation targets) were shared with the partners.

There have been two major challenges:

  • The need to keep project momentum going through various other demands on project staff amid a small budget, this has being alleviated in the short term by the good work and support of the Kings College intern student and individual catch-ups with each project partner to check on progress on an informal basis
  • A technical challenge in using the allocated budget to achieve the best possible technical solution the problem. This has involved a trade-off between user research and spending time on the actual product design and digital solution. It was decided to not pursue any more user research beyond the survey, e.g. into different user personas, and the two internal workshops and to holdback budget for the informatics experts to begin designing the solution.

In the next few months, work to establish links between the Threats and Conservation Actions data on the species pages on the Red List website and the Conservation Evidence website will begin as part of the process to develop the new Red List website.

In the following six months, we will have a sketch of potential digital solutions, which may involve a draft webpage and user journeys describing a journey from that web page to the various knowledge products already in place. The survey results will also be summarised with key conclusions.

All of the project outputs will be available from the project page on the CCI website.