Evidence-based Conservation to Advance Human Well-being
Governments and organizations are increasingly pursuing conservation policies to achieve positive outcomes for both human well-being and natural ecosystems. To achieve such combined goals, clarity is required on linkages between nature and people, and the mechanisms by which specific conservation efforts affect different aspects of human well-being. Despite a critical need, the state of existing evidence on impacts and effectiveness of existing conservation and human well-being policies is neither clear nor adequate. CEBC is a partner in a Science for Nature and People (SNAP) Working Group to collate and synthesise evidence on this topic.
Capacity building for impact evaluation, evidence synthesis, and communication of results for improved environmental evaluation and management
As a response to the lack of evidence regarding the impacts of environmentally-related policiess, the Division of Information and Environmental Economics of the Chilean Ministry of the Environment is designing the Program of Environmental Evaluation of Public Policies. Chilean environmental policies are based not only on direct application of incentives, such as environmental norms, but also on other ERPs that have environmental consequences, including agricultural subsidy programs. To promote adequate environmental management, it is necessary to evaluate costs and benefits of implementation and operation of these ERPs, and subsequently to evaluate the results with respect to the attainment (or not) of policy goals. Impacts of ERPs on issues like environmental equity, climate change, gender balance and cultural values are now cross-cutting priorities in the Chilean government. The British Council/Newton-Picarte funded training programme will include several stages related to two main issues: (i) training in methodologies of impact evaluation of environmental policies, lead by CESIEP-PUC, and (ii) training in methodologies of systematic reviews, lead by CEBC. Both stages will deliver methodological tools needed by the Ministry of the Environment’s personnel when estimating the impacts of Chilean ERPs and systematizing the evidence. The training programme will help to improve the design of policies that impact the environment, and facilitate the decision making process.
Emerging public health risks from alien species under climate change: A systematic review of threats and an evaluation of mitigation measures
Spread of invasive alien species is expected to accelerate under future climates. In 'Aliens-Health', a project funded by the Austrian Government and conducted in partnership with the Austrian Environmental Protection Agency and the University of Vienna, we will apply a systematic review framework to perform a synthesis of evidence on emerging risks to European public health from alien plant and animal species under climate change. Obtained results will be translated into specific mitigation and adaptation measures for environmental and health policy in Austria by means of a stakeholder consultation process.
Guidance to Defra on Emerging Tools and Techniques to Deliver Timely and Cost Effective Evidence Reviews
The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is funding this project on developing guidance for evidence reviews. Evidence Review (ER) is an emerging discipline in the environmental sciences. There is a growing recognition within government departments of the value of ER in assisting in decision-making in policy development. Various forms of ER exist and the methods of search and synthesis are highly variable: methods range from single expert opinion to full systematic review (SR). Although independent guidance exists for systematic review from the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence (www.environmentalevidence.org), more rapid methodologies lack such guidance. Projects are being established by different groups including CEBC and, within Defra, the Joint Water Evidence Group (JWEG) and others to test more rapid methods and examine their costs and benefits.
As these rapid methods are starting to be more widely used there is a need and opportunity to significantly improve the efficiency of their production by using new and emerging techniques in search and synthesis. Furthermore there is an opportunity to further develop existing guidance to improve the compatibility between the different forms of ER and to improve their transparency.
This project will:
- identify and test new and emerging techniques and tools to increase efficiency of all evidence review methodologies without compromising scientific rigour
- ensure that guidance for ER methodologies is further developed in a way that maximises compatibility between methods
- assist in refining ER guidance for a progressive, hierarchical approach across all ER methodologies
A Systematic and Participatory Review of Research on the Impact of Agriculture on Water Quality in Ireland
Led by the Agri-food and Bioscience Institute in Northern Ireland and Funded by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency, this project will develop an evidence-base for further research on mitigating the impact of agriculture on water quality in Ireland in the context of achieving the targets of inter alia EU WFD and Food Harvest 2020 report. This will be completed through a systematic and participatory review process of relevant research carried out in Ireland related to both the bio-physical science of agriculture and water quality and related research on farmer engagement and behavioural change.
This aim will be achieved through three key objectives:
1. To conduct a systematic review of the research using a standardised and peer reviewed methodology to identify gaps
and future policy drivers of research needs that integrate and add value to the existing research
2. To elicit the input of a wide range of experts in this field of research with the aim of prioritising future research needs.
3. To develop recommendations to inform the prioritisation of research on mitigating the impact of agriculture on water quality.
End user testing of an open-access database of research syntheses: the Environmental Evidence Database of Research Syntheses
In a competitive world, government, non-government and private sectors need access to reliable sources of evidence, summarising current knowledge, to inform their decision making. There are many evidence syntheses that do not fully conform to high standards of rigour (in assembly), transparency and objectivity achieved through systematic review methodology but nevertheless have some of its attributes. These syntheses are of potential value in informing decision making but until now have not been collected together in a database related to the evidence needs of businesses in relation to their environmental policy decisions. This project, funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council,aims to create an open-access database of research syntheses (evidence syntheses, critical reviews, meta-analyses, systematic reviews) that will provide an independent assessment, conducted to preset quality criteria, of the reliability and transparency of published syntheses.
Four of the project partners (Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd, the Findus Group, Seafish and the Shellfish Association of Great Britain) identified issues relating to the 'impacts of fishing on the marine environment’ and 'contribution of marine protected areas to sustainable fisheries' as an area of key importance for consideration. The CEBC, in collaboration with Prof. Michel Kaiser in the School of Ocean Sciences, will develop a pilot database of research syntheses to test potential utility of a full database, a methodology for identification and presentation of assessments of research syntheses in the database, and guidelines for end users on how to use the database.
Estimating greenhouse gas fluxes and carbon balance in lowland peatland systems
Lowland peat soils occupy a relatively small proportion of the overall peatland area in England and Wales, but store large amounts of carbon (C) and are subject to disproportionately high levels of land-use pressure. Because of their importance for a wide range of ecosystem services the role of lowland peat in climate regulation must be weighed against other ecosystem services to enable appropriate management decisions. This requires accurate estimates of net C and GHG fluxes as a function of peat type and management, at a range of sites sufficient to support upscaling.
Within this 4-year project commissioned by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the CEBC will lead a systematic review and a provide new syntheses and estimates of each component of the C and GHG budget (i.e. CO2 exchange, CH4 emission, N2O emission, dissolved and particulate C loss) as a function of peat type and management. The analysis will also provide an indication of uncertainty ranges and current weaknesses in the evidence base.
Human Well-being Impacts of Terrestrial Protected Areas
Protected areas (PAs) are considered one of the primary methods to preserve biodiversity and other Global Environmental Benefits (GEBs), and the increasing amount of land placed under some kind of protection is one of the very few positive achievements over the past years to protect the Earth’s biological and genetic resources, and help to maintain ecosystem processes. In parallel, there has been considerable debate on whether, apart from their effects on GEBs, the net impact of PAs on human well-being at local or regional scales are positive or negative.
Under the leadership of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility (UNEP), the CEBC, in collaboration with the EPPI Centre, will undertake a systematic review characterizing the empirical evidence of positive, negative or neutral effects of PAs on human well-being at local to national and regional scales, with emphasis on, but not restricted to local communities, the most vulnerable sectors of society, and contemplating the different dimensions of well-being such as income, health, longevity, education, equity, labour, migration, social networks, empowerment and human rights.
The VECTORS Project
Vectors is a large EU project on the Vectors of Change in Oceans and Seas Marine Life, Impact on Economic Sectors (VECTORS) which includes 37 European partners. Within this project CEBC are coordinating the production of three new systematic reviews in collaboration with 13 partners including, University College Dublin and Universita Di Pisa.
The initial questions to be addressed within this project are 1) the impact of invasive species on biodiversity and ecosystem function in the marine environment, 2) the impact of outbreaks of native species (jellyfish and algal blooms) on biodiversity and ecosystem function in the marine environment and 3) the impact of changes in distribution and productivity of species on biodiversity and ecosystem function in the in the marine environment. Each of these broad questions will lead to one or multiple specific review questions, covering different invasive species/outbreaks/distribution changes and ecosystem functions.
The kick off meeting for the whole project has just taken place in Faro, Portugal (28th Feb to 4th March), where the process of defining the questions began. The next step within this project is a workshop in April to specify the questions and train the review teams - watch this space for more details of the reviews as they develop.
The Biodiversity Knowledge Project
Knowledge about biodiversity and ecosystem services is well advanced in the European scientific community, as demonstrated by many excellent projects and their scientific impact. However, on the global as well as the European scale, there is a failure to communicate the knowledge gained into the policy-making process and society as a whole.
Communication efforts must ensure that all relevant knowledge is accessible and that all existing biodiversity research communities and other knowledge holders are involved in a network structure that is linked to decision making bodies.
The overall objective of the project is thus to develop a recommended design for a scientific biodiversity Network of Knowledge (NoK) to inform policy-makers and other societal actors. This network shall be open, transparent, flexible, equally accessible to all, independent, be scientifically- and evidence-based and have a robust structure. It will develop links to relevant clients to support the science-society interface in Europe and beyond.
To achieve this, the project brings together expertise from all major biodiversity research fields (in the consortium and beyond).
Beginning with mapping the biodiversity knowledge landscape in Europe (WP1), knowledge holders in biodiversity issues in Europe will be identified,
the project will develop a prototype NoK, involving a wide number of institutions and networks in biodiversity research and policy (WP2).
This prototype will then be used as a vehicle to carry out case studies in relevant policy fields (agriculture, biodiversity conservation, marine issues) in order to test and trial its functioning and effectiveness (WP3).
The experience gained will be evaluated by an additional expert group within the project (WP4),
in order to provide input for developing a recommended design for a potential future Network of Knowledge (WP5).
Additional work packages will take of dissemination and communication (WP6) and Management (WP7).
The kick-off meeting has been run in Bruxelles on February 10, 2011, and CEBC provides the expertise in systematic reviews and evidence-based practices in order to help with the construction of the prototype as well as its effectiveness.