Learning from Citizen Science approaches to map threats to wildlife globally and inform conservation policies: September 2018 blog entry

30th September 2018

The following blog is written by Jonas Geldmann, Research Fellow, University of Cambridge (Project lead for the CCI Collaborative Fund project ‘Learning from Citizen Science approaches to map threats to wildlife globally and inform conservation policies’).

The project is progressing as planned – working towards developing spatially specific maps of the major IUCN threats for the major taxonomic groups fully assessed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Over the last six months we have revisited the threat categories focusing now only on six: 1) agriculture, 2) hunting, 3) logging, 4) invasive species, 5) pollution, and 6) climate change. The decision to restrict the scope is to ensure that we can present the results in a single paper that covers the most essential threat categories. However, the methodology is independent of this decision and maps based on other threats can be developed later.

The primary activity of the project has remained the preparation and analysis of the data and to run validation of initial results, which has primarily been the tasks of Dr Mike Harfoot and Dr Jonas Geldmann as well as Dr Ali Johnson who has joined the team (officially from Cornell University, but based in the David Attenborough Building). This work has progressed according to plan though preliminary results from the state-based model have caused us to take a different approach. We have had essential input from all partners, which in this phase have focused particularly on assessing the validity of the maps produced as part of the process, based on the group’s taxonomic knowledge. Currently we have tested the method using 1) simulated data, 2) against deforestation, and 3) against data from ca. 1,000 protected areas, which shows great promise. Based on this we are now developing the final maps for mammals, birds and amphibians. Moving forward we are in the process of identifying an external expert for amphibians where our team might not be strong enough to assess the maps.

The project team held one workshop around the foundation for the modelling with all partner organisations attending. The workshop was very successful and has been instrumental in moving the project forward. At the meeting we revised and made final decisions on: 1) taxonomic groups to include, 2) geographical sub-division, 3) categorization of threats, 4) validation of results, 5) model framework and 6) how to use the additional available information in the birds assessments – this time based on assessments of very preliminary results. The main outcomes were a confirmation of the method used and consideration of how to present this in a paper as well as brainstorming on potential follow-up project using the maps developed as part of this project.

In terms of outputs so far, we have developed preliminary maps for mammals and amphibians for the six threats as well as a series of composite maps. We are still working on the bird maps as the additional information on scope and severity requires additional time and thinking to integrate. We have also started drafting a paper for submission, develop a sub-model for sea-birds based on additional threat information for this group, and plan and execute the policy elements for 2019. Likewise, we are also assessing potential avenues for using the data in policy processes leading up to the CBD COP in 2020.

The team has worked well together. It has been a great strength to the project that we are based in the same building which has facilitated easy access and smaller one-to-one meetings when relevant – especially as the interim results have started emerging, which have needed quick input to proceed with or to restructure the modelling approach.

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