Portrait of Professor Bob Smith

Professor Bob Smith

Professor in Conservation Science
Director of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE)


Dr Bob Smith’s work as a conservation scientist has mainly focused on identifying priority areas for conservation and designing protected area networks. Much of this work has involved leading long-running projects in Southern Africa and the UK, but Bob has worked on projects in 22 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.

Dr Smith's research also encompasses a broad range of conservation topics, including understanding spatial patterns of deforestation and human-wildlife conflict. In particular, Bob has published seminal work on the influence of corruption in conservation and the role of marketing in conservation.

Dr Smith is also an Honorary Senior Fellow at the United Nations Environment Programme – World Conservation Monitoring Centre, the Founder of the Izele online conservation social network, on the Editorial Board of the journal Oryx and a member of the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission and World Commission on Protected Areas Joint Task Force on Biodiversity and Protected Areas.

Dr Smith is a member of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE).

Research interests

The majority of Dr Bob Smith’s research focuses on designing protected area networks and conservation landscapes using the systematic conservation planning approach, with recent projects on Guyana, South Korea and West Africa. Bob also runs two long-term projects that: (a) work with local partners to design a transnational conservation planning system for the Maputaland Centre of Endemism, a region that falls within Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland; and (b) involve collaborating with Natural England to investigate the trade-offs between different approaches for creating large conservation areas.

Dr Smith is also interested in the broader aspects of identifying priority areas and his research has informed policy and practice at the local and global scale. Bob has published work on the importance of local involvement in conservation planning and he is collaborating with a range of partners on a project to identify trends and gaps in the global protected area network. He is also involved in a project led by the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and the Species Survival Commission (SSC) to update the Key Biodiversity Area approach for identifying priority areas.

Systematic conservation planning software

Dr Smith has developed two software packages for identifying priority conservation areas and designing conservation landscapes and seascapes:

  • CLUZ (Conservation Land-Use Zoning software) is a user-friendly QGIS plugin for the Marxan conservation planning software that also lets people develop and modify plans on-screen.
  • MinPatch lets users design viable protected area networks, where each protected area is larger than a specified minimum size threshold. It modifies outputs from the Marxan conservation planning software.

Corruption and conservation

Dr Smith's work on conservation and corruption initially focused on broad trends and the potential impacts of corruption on conservation project effectiveness. More recently, he has published on the potential impacts of corruption on elephant conservation. In 2016, Bob co-organised a workshop together with Transparency International and WWF as part of the inaugural meeting of the Network for Countering Conservation-related Corruption.

Large mammal conservation

Dr Smith's work in Africa has also focused on large mammal conservation and he is particularly interested in human–wildlife conflict and understanding the spatial and anthropogenic factors that determine conservation success.

Marketing and conservation

Dr Smith is interested in how marketing is used in conservation and the role of flagship species for raising funds and awareness. As part of this work Bob led a project that developed the concept of ‘Cinderella Species’, which are aesthetically appealing but currently overlooked species that could be used in future flagship species campaigns.



DI841 Managing Protected Areas (module convenor)


Current PhD students

  • Gwili Gibbon: Understanding elephant habitat use and impacts in Kenya's montane forests
  • Thirza Loffeld: Professional development in wildlife conservation: identifying gaps and barriers from case studies in developing countries (co-supervisor)
  • Hermenegildo Matimele: Testing the effectiveness of different site-based biodiversity and conservation prioritisation approaches in Mozambique 
  • Trang Nguyen: The impact of traditional Chinese medicine on African wildlife: The role of East Asian immigrants (co-supervisor)
  • Jack Slattery: Feasibility of reintroducing the red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) to Kent
  • Claire Stewart: Modelling future scenarios for conservation land-use in England
  • Rachel Sykes: Measuring the effectiveness of the global protected area network: how much is enough and how close are we?
  • Laura Thomas-Walters: Social marketing and behaviour change for demand reduction in wildlife trade



Showing 50 of 83 total publications in the Kent Academic Repository. View all publications.


  • Bull, J., Strange, N., Smith, R. and Gordon, A. (2020). Reconciling multiple counterfactuals when evaluating biodiversity conservation impact in social-ecological systems. Conservation Biology [Online]. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13570.
    When evaluating the impact of a biodiversity conservation intervention, a ‘counterfactual’ is needed, as true experimental controls are typically unavailable. Counterfactuals are possible alternative system trajectories in the absence of an intervention and comparing observed outcomes against the chosen counterfactual allows the impact (change attributable to the intervention) to be determined. Since counterfactuals are hypothetical scenarios, and by definition never occur, they must be estimated. Sometimes there may be many plausible counterfactuals, given that they can include multiple drivers of biodiversity change, and be defined on a range of spatial or temporal scales. Here we posit that, by definition, conservation interventions always take place in social-ecological systems (SES; ecological systems integrated with human actors). Evaluating the impact of an intervention within an SES therefore means taking into account the counterfactuals assumed by different human actors. Use of different counterfactuals by different actors will give rise to perceived differences in the impacts of interventions, which may lead to disagreement about its success or the effectiveness of the underlying approach. Despite that there are biophysical biodiversity trends, it is often true that no single counterfactual is definitively the ‘right one’ for conservation assessment, so multiple evaluations of intervention efficacy could be considered justifiable. Therefore, we propose the need to calculate a quantity termed the sum of perceived differences, which captures the range of impact estimates associated with different actors within a given SES. The sum of perceived differences gives some indication how closely actors within an SES agree on the impacts of an intervention. We illustrate the concept of perceived differences using a set of global, national and regional case studies. We discuss options for minimising the sum, drawing upon literatures from conservation science, psychology, behavioural economics, management and finance.
  • McGowan, J., Beaumont, L., Smith, R., Chauvenet, A., Harcourt, R., Atkinson, S., Mittermeier, J., Esperon-Rodriguez, M., Baumgartner, J., Beattie, A., Dudaniec, R., Grenyer, R., Nipperess, D., Stow, A. and Possingham, H. (2020). Conservation prioritization can resolve the flagship species conundrum. Nature Communications [Online] 11. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-14554-z.
    Conservation strategies based on charismatic flagship species, such as tigers, lions, and elephants, successfully attract funding from individuals and corporate donors. However, critics of this species-focused approach argue it wastes resources and often does not benefit broader biodiversity. If true, then the best way of raising conservation funds excludes the best way of spending it. Here we show that this conundrum can be resolved, and that the flagship species approach does not impede cost-effective conservation. Through a tailored prioritization approach, we identify places containing flagship species while also maximizing global biodiversity representation (based on 19,616 terrestrial and freshwater species). We then compare these results to scenarios that only maximized biodiversity representation, and demonstrate that our flagship-based approach achieves 79−89% of our objective. This provides strong evidence that prudently selected flagships can both raise funds for conservation and help target where these resources are best spent to conserve biodiversity.
  • Lundberg, P., Vainio, A., MacMillan, D., Smith, R., Veríssimo, D. and Arponen, A. (2019). The effect of knowledge, species aesthetic appeal, familiarity and conservation need on willingness to donate. Animal Conservation [Online] 22:432-443. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/acv.12477.
    Environmental non‐governmental organizations (ENGOs) largely select flagship species for conservation marketing based on their aesthetic appeal. However, little is known about the fundraising effectiveness of this approach or how it compares to ecosystem conservation campaigns that use habitat types as flagships. By performing a willingness to donate (WTD) survey of potential online donors from Finland, we identified which motivations and donor characteristics influence their preferences for a range of different flagship species and ecosystems. Using the contingent valuation method and the payment card approach, we found the combined funding for eight mammal flagship species was 29% higher funding than for eight bird flagship species. Furthermore, the aesthetically more appealing species, as well as the species and ecosystems that are native to Finland, attracted the most funding. We then used ordinal logistic regression to identify the factors influencing a donor's WTD, finding that knowledge of biodiversity conservation and familiarity with the flagship was associated with an increased WTD to birds and ecosystems, and people with higher education levels had an increased WTD to ecosystems. Surprisingly, species aesthetic appeal was not related to an increased WTD, although “need of conservation” was, suggesting that highlighting the plight of these less appealing threatened species or ecosystems could raise money. Our results suggest that the factors driving donating to mammals, birds or ecosystems differ, and so underline the importance of considering the diverse motivations behind donation behaviour in fundraising campaigns. They also provide new evidence of the motivations of online donors, an under‐studied group who are likely to become an increasingly important source of conservation funding.
  • Vezina, B., Smith, R. and Tiller, L. (2019). A neglected aspect of human-elephant conflict: fence damage by elephants in the Trans Mara, Kenya. Pachyderm [Online] 60:78-87. Available at: http://www.pachydermjournal.org/index.php/pachy/article/view/558.
    Human–elephant conflict (HEC) is one of the most complex issues for elephant conservation today and is on the increase. Incidents involving elephants can have severe consequences for people who co-exist with them, creating negative attitudes. While there has been a great deal of research on crop raiding, other forms of conflict including fence damage are poorly documented, but could still give rise to significant costs for households. In this study, we investigated the frequency, severity and patterns of fence damage caused by elephants in communities of the Trans Mara District, Kenya in 2014–2015 and compared these to patterns of crop raiding. In total there were 792 incidents involving fence damage only, 517 incidents involving crop and fence damage, and 72 incidents involving only crop damage. While the majority of fence damage incidents occurred between 18:00 and 06:00, some damage continued until 09:00. Fence damage occurred in every month of the study period and peaked when the frequency of crop damage decreased, highlighting the year-round nature of HEC in this region. The persistent occurrence of HEC in the Trans Mara, on both a daily and an annual timescale, becomes much more apparent when incidents of fence damage are considered as well as crop raiding. Such constant conflict could have significant implications for effects on human wellbeing and consequently, on local attitudes towards elephants and conservation efforts. This research highlights the need for more attention to be paid to the patterns and perceptions of all types of HEC, not just crop raiding, across elephant ranges in order to plan effective mitigation strategies.
  • Smith, R. (2019). The CLUZ plugin for QGIS: designing conservation area systems and other ecological networks. Research Ideas and Outcomes [Online] 5. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.3897/rio.5.e33510.
    Systematic conservation planning is the most widely used approach for designing conservation area systems and other types of ecological network. Thus, user-friendly decision support tools are needed to guide conservation planners when using this approach.

    New information
    CLUZ is a QGIS plugin that can be used for on-screen conservation planning and also acts as an interface for Marxan, the most widely used spatial conservation prioritisation software package.
  • Giakoumi, S., Hermoso, V., Carvalho, S., Markantonatou, V., Dagys, M., Iwamura, T., Probst, W., Smith, R., Yates, K., Almpanidou, V., Novak, T., Ben-Moshe, N., Katsanevakis, S., Claudet, J., Coll, M., Deidun, A., Essl, F., García-Charton, J., Jimenez, C., Kark, S., Mandi?, M., Mazaris, A., Rabitsch, W., Stelzenmüller, V., Tricarico, E. and Vogiatzakis, I. (2019). Conserving European biodiversity across realms. Conservation Letters [Online] 12. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12586.
    Terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems are connected via multiple biophysical and ecological processes. Identifying and quantifying links among ecosystems is necessary for the uptake of integrated conservation actions across realms. Such actions are particularly important for species using habitats in more than one realm during their daily or life cycle. We reviewed information on the habitats of 2,408 species of European conservation concern and found that 30% of the species use habitats in multiple realms. Transportation and service corridors, which fragment species habitats, were identified as the most important threat impacting ∼70% of the species. We examined information on 1,567 European Union (EU) conservation projects funded over the past 25 years, to assess the adequacy of efforts toward the conservation of “multi‐realm” species at a continental scale. We discovered that less than a third of multi‐realm species benefited from projects that included conservation actions across multiple realms. To achieve the EU's conservation target of halting biodiversity loss by 2020 and effectively protect multi‐realm species, integrated conservation efforts across realms should be reinforced by: (1) recognizing the need for integrated management at a policy level, (2) revising conservation funding priorities across realms, and (3) implementing integrated land‐freshwater‐sea conservation planning and management.
  • Smith, R., Bennun, L., Brooks, T., Butchart, S., Cuttelod, A., Di Marco, M., Ferrier, S., Fishpool, L., Joppa, L., Juffe?Bignoli, D., Knight, A., Lamoreux, J., Langhammer, P., Possingham, H., Rondinini, C., Visconti, P., Watson, J., Woodley, S., Boitani, L., Burgess, N., Silva, N., Dudley, N., Fivaz, F., Game, E., Groves, C., Lötter, M., McGowan, J., Plumptre, A., Rebelo, A., Rodriguez, J. and Scaramuzza, C. (2018). Synergies between the key biodiversity area and systematic conservation planning approaches. Conservation Letters [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12625.
    Systematic conservation planning and Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) are the two most widely used approaches for identifying important sites for biodiversity. However,thereislimitedadviceforconservationpolicymakersandpractitionersonwhen and how they should be combined. Here we provide such guidance, using insights from the recently developed Global Standard for the Identi?cation of KBAs and the language of decision science to review and clarify their similarities and di?erences. We argue the two approaches are broadly similar, with both setting transparent environmental objectives and specifying actions. There is however greater contrast in the datausedandactionsinvolved,astheKBAapproachusesbiodiversitydataaloneand identi?es sites for monitoring and vigilance actions at a minimum, whereas systematic conservation planning combines biodiversity and implementation-relevant data to guide management actions. This di?erence means there is much scope for combining approaches, so conservation planners should use KBA data in their analyses, setting context-speci?c targets for each KBA type, and planners and donors should use systematic conservation planning techniques when prioritizing between KBAs for management action. In doing so, they will bene?t conservation policy, practice and research by building on the collaborations formed through the KBA Standard's development.
  • García-Frapolli, E., Ayala-Orozco, B., Oliva, M. and Smith, R. (2018). Different Approaches Towards the Understanding of Socio-Environmental Conflicts in Protected Areas. Sustainability [Online] 10:2240. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/su10072240.
    Conflicts are an inherent element in the establishment and management of protected areas. Even though there is ample literature about conflicts in protected areas and the field of conservation has investigated them for decades, no consensus exists about the object itself of analysis: the conflict. In this article, we describe three different approaches for understanding socio-environmental conflicts, and we illustrate them with cases from protected areas in Mexico. The principal objective of the article is to advance discussions about the importance of understanding the implications of the use of different approaches on socio-environmental conflicts, in the interest of providing elements to take better decisions about the management of the protected areas.
  • Sinclair, S., Milner-Gulland, E., Smith, R., McIntosh, E., Possingham, H., Vercammen, A. and Knight, A. (2018). The use, and usefulness, of spatial conservation prioritizations. Conservation Letters [Online] 11. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12459.
    Spatial conservation prioritization is used globally to guide decision making with the aim of delivering the best conservation gain per unit investment. However, despite many publications on the topic, the extent to which this approach is used by decision makers has been unclear. To investigate the degree to which prioritization has been adopted by practitioners to guide conservation implementation, we conducted an online survey, collecting data on the approaches used to develop prioritizations and the reported extent of translation to on?the?ground action. Using a cluster analysis, we identified two categories of prioritizations, those developed to advance the field (42% of responses) and those intended for implementation (58% of responses). Respondents reported 74% of the prioritizations intended for implementation had translated to on?the?ground action. Additionally, we identified strong collaboration between academics and practitioners in prioritization development, suggesting a bridging of the theory?practice gap. We recommend continued collaboration and research into the effectiveness of prioritizations in delivering conservation impacts.
  • Biggs, D., Smith, R., Adams, V., Brink, H., Cook, C., Cooney, R., Holden, M., Maron, M., Phelps, J., Possingham, H., Redford, K., Scholes, R., Sutherland, W., Underwood, F. and Milner-Gulland, E. (2018). Response—Ivory crisis. Science [Online] 360:277-278. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aat1596.
  • Veríssimo, D., Campbell, H., Tollington, S., MacMillan, D. and Smith, R. (2018). Why do people donate to conservation? Insights from a ‘real world’ campaign. PLOS ONE [Online] 13. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0191888.
    Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) play a key role in biodiversity conservation. The majority of these organisations rely on public donations to fund their activities, and therefore fundraising success is a determinant of conservation outcomes. In spite of this integral relationship, the key principals for fundraising success in conservation are still guided by expert opinion and anecdotal evidence, with very few quantitative studies in the literature. Here we assessed the behaviour of monetary donors across twenty-five different species-focused conservation campaigns organised by an NGO conservation and environmental society. The Australian Geographic Society (AGS) carried out fundraising campaigns over a five and half year period using an identical methodology in thirty-four of its country-wide network of outlet shops. AGS owns and operates these shops that sell toys and games related to science and nature. We tested how the following factors influenced monetary donations from members of the public:1) campaign duration, 2) appeal and familiarity of species, 3) species geographic distribution relative to the fundraising location, 4) level of income and education of potential donors, 5) age and gender profile of potential donors. Contrary to past research, we found most of these factors did not significantly influence the amount of donations made to each campaign by members of the public. Larger animals did elicit a significantly higher amount donated per transaction than smaller animals, as did shops located in poorer neighbourhoods. Our study findings contrast with past research that has focused largely on hypothetical donations data collected via surveys, and demonstrates the complexity and case-specific nature of relationships between donor characteristics and spending patterns. The study highlights the value of assessing real-world fundraising campaigns, and illustrates how collaboration between academia and NGOs could be used to better tailor fundraising campaigns to maximise donations from individual citizens.
  • Biggs, D., Holden, M., Braczkowski, A., Cook, C., Milner-Gulland, E., Phelps, J., Scholes, R., Smith, R., Underwood, F., Adams, V., Allan, J., Brink, H., Cooney, R., Gao, Y., Hutton, J., Macdonald-Madden, E., Maron, M., Redford, K., Sutherland, W. and Possingham, H. (2017). Breaking the deadlock on ivory. Science [Online] 358:1378-1381. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aan5215.
    Poaching for ivory has caused a steep decline in African elephant (Loxodonta africana, see the photo) populations over the past decade (1). This crisis has fueled a contentious global debate over which ivory policy would best protect elephants: banning all ivory trade or enabling regulated trade to incentivize and fund elephant conservation (2). The deep-seated deadlock on ivory policy consumes valuable resources and creates an antagonistic environment among elephant conservationists. Successful solutions must begin by recognizing the different values that influence stakeholder cognitive frameworks of how actions lead to outcomes (“mental models”) (3), and therefore their diverging positions on ivory trade (4). Based on successful conflict resolution in other areas, we propose an iterative process through which countries with wild elephant populations may be able to understand their differences and develop workable solutions in a less confrontational manner.
  • McGowan, J., Smith, R., Di Marco, M., Clarke, R. and Possingham, H. (2017). An Evaluation of Marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in the Context of Spatial Conservation Prioritization. Conservation Letters [Online] 11. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/conl.12399.
    Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) are sites identified as globally important for bird species conservation. Marine IBAs are one of the few comprehensive multi-species datasets available for the marine environment, and their use in conservation planning will likely increase as countries race to protect 10% of their territorial waters by 2020. We tested 15 planning scenarios for Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone to guide best practice on integrating marine IBAs into spatial conservation prioritization. We found prioritizations based solely on habitat protection failed to protect IBAs, and prioritizations based solely on IBAs similarly failed to meet basic levels of habitat representation. Further, treating all marine IBAs as irreplaceable sites produced the most inefficient plans in terms of ecological representativeness and protection equality. Our analyses suggest that marine spatial planners who wish to use IBAs treat them like any other conservation feature by assigning them a specific protection target.
  • Arroyo-Quiroz, I., García-Barrios, R., Argueta-Villamar, A., Smith, R. and Salcido, R. (2017). Local perspectives on conflicts with wildlife and their management in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, Mexico. Journal of Ethnobiology [Online] 37:719-742. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2993/0278-0771-37.4.719.
    Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) is a widespread issue of increasing concern to conservationists, as it impacts people's lives and livelihoods and reduces their tolerance to the species concerned. HWC is often interpreted as a result of people encroaching upon and destroying natural habitats, but some incidents could be linked to economically driven emigration that results in depopulation and institutional and cultural disruption. Here we use an ethnobiological approach to gain insights on HWC dynamics from a case study in Mexico, where emigration is common in rural areas. We carried out a five-year study of HWC in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, a biodiversity-rich protected area in Mexico that also supports a human population of nearly 100,000 mostly poor and marginalized people. We found that villagers reported conflict incidents involving 25 terrestrial vertebrate species, contradicting the original self-perception that HWC mostly involved cattle ranchers and a few large carnivore species. As a response, we develop a multi-layered assessment of villagers' perspectives, emotions, and attitudes towards wildlife based on the local roles of gender, probability of encountering wildlife, and the conflicting moral beliefs and switching ethical responses of people with different cultural and economic backgrounds. Our assessment identifies the need for pluralistic approaches to enhance the sustainable use and management of wildlife in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve.
  • McIntosh, E., Pressey, R., Lloyd, S., Smith, R. and Grenyer, R. (2017). The Impact of Systematic Conservation Planning. Annual Review of Environment and Resources [Online] 42:677-697. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-environ-102016-060902.
    Systematic conservation planning (SCP) is a rapidly advancing discipline aimed at providing decision support for choices between alternate conservation actions. SCP is often used to inform choices about areas to protect, in order to optimize outcomes for biodiversity while minimizing societal costs. Despite the widespread application of SCP approaches, there is limited understanding of the types of impacts resulting from related projects, and when and where it is most effective. This is compounded by the absence of a standardized approach to evaluating and reporting on the outcomes of SCP projects. We highlight the challenges of undertaking evaluations of complex planning processes, the current state of knowledge about the outcomes of SCP projects, and emerging opportunities to improve evaluation. There is a need for clarity around theories of change, definitions of SCP and impact, and standardized reporting and information sharing across the discipline.
  • Megias, D., Anderson, S., Smith, R. and Veríssimo, D. (2017). Investigating the impact of media on demand for wildlife: A case study of Harry Potter and the UK trade in owls. PLOS ONE [Online] 12:e0182368. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0182368.
    In recent decades, a substantial number of popular press articles have described an increase in demand for certain species in the pet trade due to films such as “Finding Nemo”, “Ninja turtles”, and “Harry Potter”. Nevertheless, such assertions are largely supported only by anecdotal evidence. Given the role of the wildlife trade in the spread of pathogens and zoonosis, the introduction of invasive species, the overexploitation of biodiversity, and the neglect of animal welfare, it is crucial to understand what factors drive demand for a species. Here, we investigate the effect the movie industry may have on wildlife trade by examining the relationship between the “Harry Potter” cultural phenomenon and the trade in owls within the United Kingdom (UK). We gathered data from the UK box office, book sales, and newspaper mentions, and examined their relationship with data from three independent sources reflecting the legal ownership of owls in the UK, which is likely to involve several thousands of animals. Additionally, we conducted a questionnaire survey with UK animal sanctuaries to study the presumed mass abandonment of pet owls when the film series ended. Counter to common assertions, we find no evidence that the “Harry Potter” phenomenon increased the legal trade in owls within the UK, even when possible time-lag effects were taken into account. Only one indicator, the number of movie tickets sold, showed a weak but contradictory relationship with demand for owls, with a recorded drop of 13% (95% CI: 3–27%) per 1 SD in tickets sold in the original analysis but an increase of 4% (95% CI: 0–8%) with a one-year lag. In addition, our results suggest that the end of the Harry Potter series did not have a noticeable impact on the number of owls abandoned in UK wildlife sanctuaries, as only two of the 46 animal sanctuaries we contacted independently stated they had seen an increase in owls received and believed this was due to the Harry Potter series. We highlight the importance of further research on the drivers of demand for wildlife to better manage this global trade, and discuss the potential to use films to positively influence behaviour.
  • Bicknell, J., Collins, M., Pickles, R., McCann, N., Bernard, C., Fernandes, D., Miller, M., James, S., Williams, A., Struebig, M., Davies, Z. and Smith, R. (2017). Designing protected area networks that translate international conservation commitments into national action. Biological Conservation [Online] 214:168-175. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2017.08.024.
    Most countries have committed to protect 17% of their terrestrial area by 2020 through Aichi Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, with a focus on protecting areas of particular importance for biodiversity. This means national-scale spatial conservation prioritisations are needed to help meet this target and guide broader conservation and land-use policy development. However, to ensure these assessments are adopted by policy makers, they must also consider national priorities. This situation is exemplified by Guyana, a corner of Amazonia that couples high biodiversity with low economic development. In recent years activities that threaten biodiversity conservation have increased, and consequently, protected areas are evermore critical to achieving the Aichi targets. Here we undertake a cost-effective approach to protected area planning in Guyana that accounts for in-country conditions. To do this we conducted a stakeholder-led spatial conservation prioritisation based on meeting targets for 17 vegetation types and 329 vertebrate species, while minimising opportunity costs for forestry, mining, agriculture and urbanisation. Our analysis identifies 3 million
  • Shwartz, A., Davies, Z., Macgregor, N., Crick, H., Clarke, D., Eigenbrod, F., Gonner, C., Hill, C., Knight, A., Metcalfe, K., Osborne, P., Phalan, B. and Smith, R. (2017). Scaling up from protected areas in England: The value of establishing large conservation areas. Biological Conservation [Online] 212:279-287. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2017.06.016.
    Protected areas (PAs) are vital for conserving biodiversity, but many PA networks consist of fragmented habitat patches that poorly represent species and ecosystems. One possible solution is to create conservation landscapes that surround and link these PAs. This often involves working with a range of landowners and agencies to develop large-scale conservation initiatives (LSCIs). These initiatives are being championed by both government and civil society, but we lack data on whether such landscape-level approaches overcome the limitations of more traditional PA networks. Here we expand on a previous gap analysis of England to explore to what extent LSCIs improve the representation of different ecoregions, land-cover types and elevation zones compared to the current PA system. Our results show the traditional PA system covers 6.37% of England, an addition of only 0.07% since 2001, and that it is an ecologically unrepresentative network that mostly protects agriculturally unproductive land. Including LSCIs in the analysis increases the land for conservation more than tenfold and reduces these representation biases. However, only 24% of land within LSCIs is currently under conservation management, mostly funded through agri-environment schemes, and limited monitoring data mean that their contribution to conservation objectives is unclear. There is also a considerable spatial overlap between LSCIs, which are managed by different organisations with different conservation objectives. Our analysis is the first to show how Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECMs) can increase the representativeness of conservation area networks, and highlights opportunities for increased collaboration between conservation organisations and engagement with landowners.
  • Veríssimo, D., Vaughan, G., Ridout, M., Waterman, C., MacMillan, D. and Smith, R. (2017). Increased conservation marketing effort has major fundraising benefits for even the least popular species. Biological Conservation [Online] 211:95-101. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2017.04.018.
    Conservationists often complain that their study species are ignored by donors. However, marketing theory could help understand and increase the profile and fundraising potential of these neglected species. We used linear regression with multimodel inference to analyse data on online behaviour from the websites of the World Wildlife Fund-US (WWF-US) and the Zoological Society of London's EDGE of Existence programme (EDGE), in order to understand how species traits and marketing campaign characteristics influenced flagship-based fundraising efforts. Our analysis accounted for species traits through variables such as appeal and familiarity, and marketing campaign characteristics through measuring the order in which the species were presented and the amount of information provided. We found that species traits were key for the WWF-US website, with appealing and threatened non-mammal species the most popular with donors. This was probably because WWF-US used well-known flagship species and so marketing had little impact. The EDGE website used a wider variety of species and in this case both species traits and the marketing campaign characteristics were important, so that appealing species and well-promoted species did best. We then predicted outcomes for a hypothetical EDGE fundraising campaign with varying degrees of marketing effort. We showed that additional marketing can have a large impact on donor behaviour, potentially increasing the interest of potential donors towards unappealing species by up to 26 times. This increase would more than equal the amount raised by campaigns using appealing species without additional promotion. Our results show marketing can have a large impact on donor behaviour and suggest there is scope for successful marketing campaigns based on a much wider range of species.
  • Katsanevakis, S., Mackelworth, P., Coll, M., Fraschetti, S., Ma?i?, V., Giakoumi, S., Jones, P., Levin, N., Albano, P., Badalamenti, F., Brennan, R., Claudet, J., Culibrk, D., D’Anna, G., Deidun, A., Evagelopoulos, A., García-Charton, J., Goldsborough, D., Holcer, D., Jimenez, C., Kark, S., Sørensen, T., Lazar, B., Martin, G., Mazaris, A., Micheli, F., Milner-Gulland, E., Pipitone, C., Portman, M., Pranovi, F., Rilov, G., Smith, R., Stelzenmüller, V., Vogiatzakis, I. and Winters, G. (2017). Advancing marine conservation in European and contiguous seas with the MarCons Action. Research Ideas and Outcomes [Online] 3:e11884. Available at: http://doi.org/10.3897/rio.3.e11884.
    Cumulative human impacts have led to the degradation of marine ecosystems and the decline of biodiversity in the European and contiguous seas. Effective conservation measures are urgently needed to reverse these trends. Conservation must entail societal choices, underpinned by human values and worldviews that differ between the countries bordering these seas. Social, economic and political heterogeneity adds to the challenge of balancing conservation with sustainable use of the seas. Comprehensive macro-regional coordination is needed to ensure effective conservation of marine ecosystems and biodiversity of this region. Under the European Union Horizon 2020 framework programme, the MarCons COST action aims to promote collaborative research to support marine management, conservation planning and policy development. This will be achieved by developing novel methods and tools to close knowledge gaps and advance marine conservation science. This action will provide support for the development of macro-regional and national policies through six key actions: to develop tools to analyse cumulative human impacts; to identify critical scientific and technical gaps in conservation efforts; to improve the resilience of the marine environment to global change and biological invasions; to develop frameworks for integrated conservation planning across terrestrial, freshwater, and marine environments; to coordinate marine conservation policy across national boundaries; and to identify effective governance approaches for marine protected area management. Achieving the objectives of these actions will facilitate the integration of marine conservation policy into macro-regional maritime spatial planning agendas for the European and contiguous seas, thereby offsetting the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in this region.
  • Brink, H., Smith, R., Skinner, K. and Leader-Williams, N. (2016). Sustainability and Long Term-Tenure: Lion Trophy Hunting in Tanzania. PLOS ONE [Online] 11:e0162610. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0162610.
  • Metcalfe, K., Vaughan, G., Vaz, S. and Smith, R. (2015). Spatial, socio-economic, and ecological implications of incorporating minimum size constraints in marine protected area network design. Conservation Biology [Online] 29:1615-1625. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12571.
    Marine protected areas (MPAs) are the cornerstone of most marine conservation strategies, but the effectiveness of each one partly depends on its size and distance to other MPAs in a network. Despite this, current recommendations on ideal MPA size and spacing vary widely, and data are lacking on how these constraints might influence the overall spatial characteristics, socio-economic impacts, and connectivity of the resultant MPA networks. To address this problem, we tested the impact of applying different MPA size constraints in English waters. We used the Marxan spatial prioritization software to identify a network of MPAs that met conservation feature targets, whilst minimizing impacts on fisheries; modified the Marxan outputs with the MinPatch software to ensure each MPA met a minimum size; and used existing data on the dispersal distances of a range of species found in English waters to investigate the likely impacts of such spatial constraints on the region's biodiversity. Increasing MPA size had little effect on total network area or the location of priority areas, but as MPA size increased, fishing opportunity cost to stakeholders increased. In addition, as MPA size increased, the number of closely connected sets of MPAs in networks and the average distance between neighboring MPAs decreased, which consequently increased the proportion of the planning region that was isolated from all MPAs. These results suggest networks containing large MPAs would be more viable for the majority of the region's species that have small dispersal distances, but dispersal between MPA sets and spill-over of individuals into unprotected areas would be reduced. These findings highlight the importance of testing the impact of applying different MPA size constraints because there are clear trade-offs that result from the interaction of size, number, and distribution of MPAs in a network.
  • Di Marco, M., Brooks, T., Cuttelod, A., Fishpool, L., Rondinini, C., Smith, R., Bennun, L., Butchart, S., Ferrier, S., Foppen, R., Joppa, L., Juffe-Bignoli, D., Knight, A., Lamoreux, J., Langhammer, P., May, I., Possingham, H., Visconti, P., Watson, J. and Woodley, S. (2015). Quantifying the relative irreplaceability of important bird and biodiversity areas. Conservation Biology [Online] 30:392-402. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12609.
    World governments have committed to increase the global protected areas coverage by 2020, but the effectiveness of this commitment for protecting biodiversity depends on where new protected areas are located. Threshold- and complementarity-based approaches have been independently used to identify important sites for biodiversity. We brought together these approaches by performing a complementarity-based analysis of irreplaceability in important bird and biodiversity areas (IBAs), which are sites identified using a threshold-based approach. We determined whether irreplaceability values are higher inside than outside IBAs and whether any observed difference depends on known characteristics of the IBAs. We focused on 3 regions with comprehensive IBA inventories and bird distribution atlases: Australia, southern Africa, and Europe. Irreplaceability values were significantly higher inside than outside IBAs, although differences were much smaller in Europe than elsewhere. Higher irreplaceability values in IBAs were associated with the presence and number of restricted-range species; number of criteria under which the site was identified; and mean geographic range size of the species for which the site was identified (trigger species). In addition, IBAs were characterized by higher irreplaceability values when using proportional species representation targets, rather than fixed targets. There were broadly comparable results when measuring irreplaceability for trigger species and when considering all bird species, which indicates a good surrogacy effect of the former. Recently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has convened a consultation to consolidate global standards for the identification of key biodiversity areas (KBAs), building from existing approaches such as IBAs. Our results informed this consultation, and in particular a proposed irreplaceability criterion that will allow the new KBA standard to draw on the strengths of both threshold- and complementarity-based approaches.
  • Visconti, P., Bakkenes, M., Smith, R., Joppa, L. and Sykes, R. (2015). Socio-economic and ecological impacts of global protected area expansion plans. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences [Online] 370. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2014.0284.
    Several global strategies for protected area (PA) expansion have been proposed to achieve the Convention on Biological Diversity's Aichi target 11 as a means to stem biodiversity loss, as required by the Aichi target 12. However, habitat loss outside PAs will continue to affect habitats and species, and PAs may displace human activities into areas that might be even more important for species persistence. Here we measure the expected contribution of PA expansion strategies to Aichi target 12 by estimating the extent of suitable habitat available for all terrestrial mammals, with and without additional protection (the latter giving the counterfactual outcome), under different socio-economic scenarios and consequent land-use change to 2020. We found that expanding PAs to achieve representation targets for ecoregions under a Business-as-usual socio-economic scenario will result in a worse prognosis than doing nothing for more than 50% of the world's terrestrial mammals. By contrast, targeting protection towards threatened species can increase the suitable habitat available to over 60% of terrestrial mammals. Even in the absence of additional protection, an alternative socio-economic scenario, adopting progressive changes in human consumption, leads to positive outcomes for mammals globally and to the largest improvements for wide-ranging species.
  • Willis, S., Foden, W., Baker, D., Belle, E., Burgess, N., Carr, J., Doswald, N., Garcia, R., Hartley, A., Hof, C., Newbold, T., Rahbek, C., Smith, R., Visconti, P., Young, B. and Butchart, S. (2015). Integrating climate change vulnerability assessments from species distribution models and trait-based approaches. Biological Conservation [Online] 190:167-178. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2015.05.001.
    To accommodate climate-driven changes in biological communities, conservation plans are increasingly making use of models to predict species’ responses to climate change. To date, species distribution models have been the most commonly used approach for assessing species’ vulnerability to climate change. Biological trait-based approaches, which have emerged recently, and which include consideration of species’ sensitivity and adaptive capacity, provide alternative and potentially conflicting vulnerability assessments and present conservation practitioners and planners with difficult choices. Here we discuss the differing objectives and strengths of the approaches, and provide guidance to conservation practitioners for their application. We outline an integrative methodological framework for assessing climate change impacts on species that uses both traditional species distribution modelling approaches and biological trait-based assessments. We show how these models can be used conceptually as inputs to guide conservation monitoring and planning.
  • Metcalfe, K., Vaz, S., Engelhard, G., Villanueva, M., Smith, R. and Mackinson, S. (2015). Evaluating conservation and fisheries management strategies by linking spatial prioritization software and ecosystem and fisheries modelling tools. Journal of Applied Ecology [Online] 52:665-674. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12404.
    1. Well-designed marine protected area (MPA) networks can deliver a range of ecological, economic and social benefits, and so a great deal of research has focused on developing spatial conservation prioritization tools to help identify important areas.
    2. However, whilst these software tools are designed to identify MPA networks that both represent biodiversity and minimize impacts on stakeholders, they do not consider complex ecological processes. Thus, it is difficult to determine the impacts that proposed MPAs could have on marine ecosystem health, fisheries and fisheries sustainability.
    3. Using the eastern English Channel as a case study, this paper explores an approach to address these issues by identifying a series of MPA networks using the Marxan and Marxan with Zones conservation planning software and linking them with a spatially explicit ecosystem model developed in Ecopath with Ecosim. We then use these to investigate potential trade-offs associated with adopting different MPA management strategies.
    4. Limited-take MPAs, which restrict the use of some fishing gears, could have positive benefits for conservation and fisheries in the eastern English Channel, even though they generally receive far less attention in research on MPA network design.
    5. Our findings, however, also clearly indicate that no-take MPAs should form an integral component of proposed MPA networks in the eastern English Channel, as they not only result in substantial increases in ecosystem biomass, fisheries catches and the biomass of commercially valuable target species, but are fundamental to maintaining the sustainability of the fisheries.
    6. Synthesis and applications. Using the existing software tools Marxan with Zones and Ecopath with Ecosim in combination provides a powerful policy-screening approach. This could help inform marine spatial planning by identifying potential conflicts and by designing new regulations that better balance conservation objectives and stakeholder interests. In addition, it highlights that appropriate combinations of no-take and limited-take marine protected areas might be the most effective when making trade-offs between long-term ecological benefits and short-term political acceptability
  • Butchart, S., Clarke, M., Smith, R., Sykes, R., Scharlemann, J., Harfoot, M., Buchanan, G., Angulo, A., Balmford, A., Bertzky, B., Brooks, T., Carpenter, K., Comeros-Raynal, M., Cornell, J., Ficetola, G., Fishpool, L., Fuller, R., Geldmann, J., Harwell, H., Hilton-Taylor, C., Hoffmann, M., Joolia, A., Joppa, L., Kingston, N., May, I., Milam, A., Polidoro, B., Ralph, G., Richman, N., Rondinini, C., Segan, D., Skolnik, B., Spalding, M., Stuart, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Visconti, P., Watson, J., Wood, L. and Burgess, N. (2015). Shortfalls and Solutions for Meeting National and Global Conservation Area Targets. Conservation Letters [Online] 8:329-337. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12158.
    Governments have committed to conserving ?17% of terrestrial and ?10% of marine environments globally, especially “areas of particular importance for biodiversity” through “ecologically representative” Protected Area (PA) systems or other “area-based conservation measures”, while individual countries have committed to conserve 3–50% of their land area. We estimate that PAs currently cover 14.6% of terrestrial and 2.8% of marine extent, but 59–68% of ecoregions, 77–78% of important sites for biodiversity, and 57% of 25,380 species have inadequate coverage. The existing 19.7 million km2 terrestrial PA network needs only 3.3 million km2 to be added to achieve 17% terrestrial coverage. However, it would require nearly doubling to achieve, cost-efficiently, coverage targets for all countries, ecoregions, important sites, and species. Poorer countries have the largest relative shortfalls. Such extensive and rapid expansion of formal PAs is unlikely to be achievable. Greater focus is therefore needed on alternative approaches, including community- and privately managed sites and other effective area-based conservation measures.
  • Struebig, M., Wilting, A., Gaveau, D., Meijaard, E., Smith, R., Fischer, M., Metcalfe, K. and Kramer-Schadt, S. (2015). Targeted Conservation to Safeguard a Biodiversity Hotspot from Climate and Land-Cover Change. Current Biology [Online] 25:372-378. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.11.067.
    Responses of biodiversity to changes in both land cover and climate are recognized [1] but still poorly understood [2]. This poses significant challenges for spatial planning as species could shift, contract, expand, or maintain their range inside or outside protected areas [2, 3 and 4]. We examine this problem in Borneo, a global biodiversity hotspot [5], using spatial prioritization analyses that maximize species conservation under multiple environmental-change forecasts. Climate projections indicate that 11%–36% of Bornean mammal species will lose ?30% of their habitat by 2080, and suitable ecological conditions will shift upslope for 23%–46%. Deforestation exacerbates this process, increasing the proportion of species facing comparable habitat loss to 30%–49%, a 2-fold increase on historical trends. Accommodating these distributional changes will require conserving land outside existing protected areas, but this may be less than anticipated from models incorporating deforestation alone because some species will colonize high-elevation reserves. Our results demonstrate the increasing importance of upland reserves and that relatively small additions (16,000–28,000 km2) to the current conservation estate could provide substantial benefits to biodiversity facing changes to land cover and climate. On Borneo, much of this land is under forestry jurisdiction, warranting targeted conservation partnerships to safeguard biodiversity in an era of global change.
  • Baker, D., Hartley, A., Burgess, N., Butchart, S., Carr, J., Smith, R., Belle, E. and Willis, S. (2015). Assessing climate change impacts for vertebrate fauna across the West African protected area network using regionally appropriate climate projections. Diversity and Distributions [Online] 21:991-1003. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.12337.
    We conduct the first assessment of likely future climate change impacts for biodiversity across the West African protected area (PA) network using climate projections that capture important climate regimes (e.g. West African Monsoon) and mesoscale processes that are often poorly simulated in general circulation models (GCMs).

    West Africa.

    We use correlative species distribution models to relate species (amphibians, birds, mammals) distributions to modelled contemporary climates, and projected future distributions across the PA network. Climate data were simulated using a physically based regional climate model to dynamically downscale GCMs. GCMs were selected because they accurately reproduce important regional climate regimes and generate a range of regional climate change responses. We quantify uncertainty arising from projected climate change, modelling methodology and spatial dependency, and assess the spatial and temporal patterns of climate change impacts for biodiversity across the PA network.

    Substantial species turnover across the network is projected for all three taxonomic groups by 2100 (amphibians = 42.5% (median); birds = 35.2%; mammals = 37.9%), although uncertainty is high, particularly for amphibians and mammals, and, importantly, increases across the century. However, consistent patterns of impacts across taxa emerge by early to mid-century, suggesting high impacts across the Lower Guinea forest.

    Main conclusions
    Reducing (e.g. using appropriate climate projections) and quantifying uncertainty in climate change impact assessments helps clarify likely impacts. Consistent patterns of high biodiversity impacts emerge in the early and mid-century projections, while end-of-century projections are too uncertain for reliable assessments. We recommend that climate change adaptation should focus on earlier projections, where we have most confidence in species responses, rather than on end-of-century projections that are frequently used. In addition, our work suggests climate impact should consider a broad range of species, as we simulate divergent responses across taxonomic groups.
  • Gardner, C., Raxworthy, C., Metcalfe, K., Raselimanana, A., Smith, R. and Davies, Z. (2015). Comparing Methods for Prioritising Protected Areas for Investment: A Case Study Using Madagascar’s Dry Forest Reptiles. PLOS ONE [Online] 10:e0132803. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0132803.
    There are insufficient resources available to manage the world’s existing protected area portfolio effectively, so the most important sites should be prioritised in investment decision-making. Sophisticated conservation planning and assessment tools developed to identify locations for new protected areas can provide an evidence base for such prioritisations, yet decision-makers in many countries lack the institutional support and necessary capacity to use the associated software. As such, simple heuristic approaches such as species richness or number of threatened species are generally adopted to inform prioritisation decisions. However, their performance has never been tested. Using the reptile fauna of Madagascar’s dry forests as a case study, we evaluate the performance of four site prioritisation protocols used to rank the conservation value of 22 established and candidate protected areas. We compare the results to a benchmark produced by the widely-used systematic conservation planning software Zonation. The four indices scored sites on the basis of: i) species richness; ii) an index based on species’ Red List status; iii) irreplaceability (a key metric in systematic conservation planning); and, iv) a novel Conservation Value Index (CVI), which incorporates species-level information on endemism, representation in the protected area system, tolerance of habitat degradation and hunting/collection pressure. Rankings produced by the four protocols were positively correlated to the results of Zonation, particularly amongst high-scoring sites, but CVI and Irreplaceability performed better than Species Richness and the Red List Index. Given the technological capacity constraints experienced by decision-makers in the developing world, our findings suggest that heuristic metrics can represent a useful alternative to more sophisticated analyses, especially when they integrate species-specific information related to extinction risk. However, this can require access to, and understanding of, more complex species data.
  • Smith, R., Biggs, D., St. John, F., ‘t Sas-Rolfes, M. and Barrington, R. (2015). Elephant conservation and corruption beyond the ivory trade. Conservation Biology [Online] 29:953-956. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12488.
  • Venter, O., Fuller, R., Segan, D., Carwardine, J., Brooks, T., Butchart, S., Di Marco, D., Iwamura, T., Joseph, L., O’Grady, D., Possingham, H., Rondinini, C., Smith, R., Venter, M. and Watson, J. (2014). Targeting Global Protected Area Expansion for Imperiled Biodiversity. PLoS Biology [Online]. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001891.
    Governments have agreed to expand the global protected area network from 13% to 17% of the world's land surface by 2020 (Aichi target 11) and to prevent the further loss of known threatened species (Aichi target 12). These targets are interdependent, as protected areas can stem biodiversity loss when strategically located and effectively managed. However, the global protected area estate is currently biased toward locations that are cheap to protect and away from important areas for biodiversity. Here we use data on the distribution of protected areas and threatened terrestrial birds, mammals, and amphibians to assess current and possible future coverage of these species under the convention. We discover that 17% of the 4,118 threatened vertebrates are not found in a single protected area and that fully 85% are not adequately covered (i.e., to a level consistent with their likely persistence). Using systematic conservation planning, we show that expanding protected areas to reach 17% coverage by protecting the cheapest land, even if ecoregionally representative, would increase the number of threatened vertebrates covered by only 6%. However, the nonlinear relationship between the cost of acquiring land and species coverage means that fivefold more threatened vertebrates could be adequately covered for only 1.5 times the cost of the cheapest solution, if cost efficiency and threatened vertebrates are both incorporated into protected area decision making. These results are robust to known errors in the vertebrate range maps. The Convention on Biological Diversity targets may stimulate major expansion of the global protected area estate. If this expansion is to secure a future for imperiled species, new protected areas must be sited more strategically than is presently the case.
  • Veríssimo, D., Pongiluppi, T., Santos, M., Develey, P., Fraser, I., Smith, R. and MacMillan, D. (2014). Using a Systematic Approach to Select Flagship Species for Bird Conservation. Conservation Biology [Online] 28:269-277. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12142.
    Conservation marketing campaigns that focus on flagship species play a vital role in biological
    diversity conservation because they raise funds and change people’s behavior. However, most flagship species
    are selected without considering the target audience of the campaign, which can hamper the campaign’s
    effectiveness. To address this problem, we used a systematic and stakeholder-driven approach to select flagship
    species for a conservation campaign in the Serra do Urubu in northeastern Brazil. We based our techniques
    on environmental economic and marketing methods. We used choice experiments to examine the species
    attributes that drive preference and latent-class models to segment respondents into groups by preferences and
    socioeconomic characteristics. We used respondent preferences and information on bird species inhabiting
    the Serra do Urubu to calculate a flagship species suitability score. We also asked respondents to indicate
    their favorite species from a set list to enable comparison between methods. The species’ traits that drove
    audience preference were geographic distribution, population size, visibility, attractiveness, and survival in
    captivity. However, the importance of these factors differed among groups and groups differed in their views
    on whether species with small populations and the ability to survive in captivity should be prioritized. The
    popularity rankings of species differed between approaches, a result that was probably related to the different
    ways in which the 2 methods measured preference. Our new approach is a transparent and evidence-based
    method that can be used to refine the way stakeholders are engaged in the design of conservation marketing
  • Humle, T., Duffy, R., Roberts, D., Sandbrook, C., St. John, F. and Smith, R. (2014). Biology’s drones: undermined by fear. Science [Online] 344:1351-1351. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.344.6190.1351-a.
  • Has climate change taken prominence over biodiversity conservation? (2014). Bioscience [Online] 64:625-629. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biu079.
    The growing prominence of climate change has led to concerns that other important environmental issues, such as biodiversity loss, are being overshadowed. We investigate this assertion by examining trends in biodiversity and climate change coverage within the scientific and newspaper press, as well as the relative distribution of funding through the World Bank and the National Science Foundation, since the late 1980s. Our indicators substantiate some of these fears. To prevent biodiversity from becoming a declining priority, conservationists need to analyze the discourse surrounding climate change and determine how it has become the predominant environmental topic. In addition, given the common drivers of biodiversity loss and climate change, we argue that win–win solutions must be sought wherever possible. Conservationists need to be proactive and take this opportunity to use the mounting interest in climate change as a flagship to leverage more support and action to prevent further biodiversity loss.
  • Veríssimo, D., Fraser, I., Girão, W., Campos, A., Smith, R. and MacMillan, D. (2013). Evaluating Conservation Flagships and Flagship Fleets. Conservation Letters [Online] 7:263-270. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/conl.12070.
    Flagship species are widely used in conservation but this single species approach has attracted criticism. One response is the “flagship fleet,” which uses several flagship species in one conservation marketing campaign. However, marketing theory suggests multibrand campaigns can be counter-productive. Here, we develop an evaluation strategy for conservation flagships, and use it to: measure the effectiveness of an existing bird flagship species; detect whether additional species are needed; and, if appropriate, identify which species should be added to create a flagship fleet. We show the bird species has high levels of visibility and recognition, but has traits that appeal to only half the target audience. We also show that this shortcoming could be overcome by forming a flagship fleet based on adding an endemic mammal or fish species but there are additional strategic considerations that must be taken into account, namely in terms of costs and potential future conflicts.
  • Brink, H., Smith, R. and Skinner, K. (2013). Methods for lion monitoring: a comparison from the Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania. African Journal of Ecology [Online] 51:366-375. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/aje.12051.
    The Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania is believed to contain Africa's largest population of lions (Panthera leo), making it a popular destination for trophy hunters and photographic tourists. However, a lack of recent data has raised concerns about the conservation status of this iconic population, so we collected two types of population data between 2006 and 2009. First, we identified 112 individual animals in an 800 km2 study area in the photographic tourism part of Selous, giving a density of 0.14 individuals km?2. This density estimate was similar to results using the same method from 1997 to 1999, but the adult sex ratio has decreased from 1 male : 1.3 female in 1997 to 1 male : 3 females in 2009. Second, using buffalo calf distress calls, we conducted call-up surveys to census lions in three hunting sectors in the west, east and south of Selous and in the northern photographic area. Estimated adult lion densities varied from 0.02 to 0.10 km?2, allowing an overall population estimate of 4,300 (range: 1,700–6,900). Our results highlight the value of call-ups in surveying cryptic hunted carnivores but stress the importance of long-term projects for calibrating the responses to call-ups and for measuring trends in demography and population size.
  • Metcalfe, K., Roberts, T., Smith, R. and Harrop, S. (2013). Marine conservation science and governance in North–West Europe: Conservation planning and international law and policy. Marine Policy [Online] 39:289-295. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2012.12.002.
    Member States of the European Union are increasingly designating marine protected areas (MPAs) to meet globally agreed marine protection targets and regional commitments. A number of studies have examined the impact of the associated European policy on the representation of species and habitats but there is no comprehensive review of their combined impact on marine conservation in Europe. Here a systematic conservation planning framework is used to conduct such a review and compare the existing legislation to three elements of best practice, which are designed to identify MPA networks that achieve conservation goals whilst increasing the likelihood of implementation. In particular, this review investigates the extent to which legislation: (i) translates broad policy goals into explicit targets; (ii) incorporates socio-economic data into the planning process; and (iii) requires a social assessment. Whilst this legislation has widespread political support and has underpinned the rapid expansion of MPA networks, this review shows it largely fails to incorporate these key components from systematic conservation planning. Therefore, if European approaches to marine conservation are to fulfil their goal of halting marine biodiversity loss, it is essential they link existing policy frameworks with transparent strategies that account for local conditions and support implementation.
  • Metcalfe, K., Delavenne, J., Garcia, C., Foveau, A., Dauvin, J., Coggan, R., Vaz, S., Harrop, S. and Smith, R. (2013). Impacts of data quality on the setting of conservation planning targets using the species-area relationship. Diversity and Distributions [Online] 19:1-13. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1472-4642.2012.00921.x.
    The species–area relationship (SAR) is increasingly being used to set conservation targets for habitat types when designing protected area networks. This approach is transparent and scientifically defensible, but there has been little research on how it is affected by data quality and quantity.
  • McCreless, E., Carwardine, J., Visconti, P., Wilcox, C. and Smith, R. (2013). Cheap and Nasty? The Potential Perils of Using Management Costs to Identify Global Conservation Priorities. PLoS ONE [Online] 8:e80893. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0080893.
    The financial cost of biodiversity conservation varies widely around the world and such costs should be considered when identifying countries to best focus conservation investments. Previous global prioritizations have been based on global models for protected area management costs, but this metric may be related to other factors that negatively influence the effectiveness and social impacts of conservation. Here we investigate such relationships and first show that countries with low predicted costs are less politically stable. Local support and capacity can mitigate the impacts of such instability, but we also found that these countries have less civil society involvement in conservation. Therefore, externally funded projects in these countries must rely on government agencies for implementation. This can be problematic, as our analyses show that governments in countries with low predicted costs score poorly on indices of corruption, bureaucratic quality and human rights. Taken together, our results demonstrate that using national-level estimates for protected area management costs to set global conservation priorities is simplistic, as projects in apparently low-cost countries are less likely to succeed and more likely to have negative impacts on people. We identify the need for an improved approach to develop global conservation cost metrics that better capture the true costs of avoiding or overcoming such problems. Critically, conservation scientists must engage with practitioners to better understand and implement context-specific solutions. This approach assumes that measures of conservation costs, like measures of conservation value, are organization specific, and would bring a much-needed focus on reducing the negative impacts of conservation to develop projects that benefit people and biodiversity.
  • Di Minin, E., Hunter, L., Balme, G., Smith, R., Goodman, P. and Slotow, R. (2013). Creating Larger and Better Connected Protected Areas Enhances the Persistence of Big Game Species in the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Biodiversity Hotspot. PLoS ONE [Online] 8:e71788. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0071788.
    The ideal conservation planning approach would enable decision-makers to use population viability analysis to assess the effects of management strategies and threats on all species at the landscape level. However, the lack of high-quality data derived from long-term studies, and uncertainty in model parameters and/or structure, often limit the use of population models to only a few species of conservation concern. We used spatially explicit metapopulation models in conjunction with multi-criteria decision analysis to assess how species-specific threats and management interventions would affect the persistence of African wild dog, black rhino, cheetah, elephant, leopard and lion, under six reserve scenarios, thereby providing the basis for deciding on a best course of conservation action in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, which forms the central component of the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany biodiversity hotspot. Overall, the results suggest that current strategies of managing populations within individual, small, fenced reserves are unlikely to enhance metapopulation persistence should catastrophic events affect populations in the future. Creating larger and better-connected protected areas would ensure that threats can be better mitigated in the future for both African wild dog and leopard, which can disperse naturally, and black rhino, cheetah, elephant, and lion, which are constrained by electric fences but can be managed using translocation. The importance of both size and connectivity should inform endangered megafauna conservation and management, especially in the context of restoration efforts in increasingly human-dominated landscapes.
  • Smith, R., Veríssimo, D., Isaac, N. and Jones, K. (2012). Identifying Cinderella species: uncovering mammals with conservation flagship appeal. Conservation Letters [Online] 5:205-212. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1755-263X.2012.00229.x.
    International conservation NGOs rely on flagship species campaigns for fundraising but this approach has been criticized for benefiting a limited number of species. However, this criticism assumes these campaigns do not fundraise for broader issues and that alternative species with similar appeal to the target audience exist. We investigated this by: (1) recording the use of threatened mammal species in international NGO flagship campaigns, and; (2) using these data to identify “Cinderella species,” which we define as aesthetically appealing but currently overlooked species. We found these NGOs only used 80 flagship species and that 61% of their campaigns only raised funds for the species itself. We also found these existing flagships are generally large and have forward-facing eyes and that there are 183 other threatened species with similar traits. Thus, the current approach is overly limited but NGOs could overcome this by adopting some of these Cinderella species as new flagships.
  • Delavenne, J., Metcalfe, K., Smith, R., Vaz, S., Martin, C., Dupuis, L., Coppin, F. and Carpentier, A. (2012). Systematic conservation planning in the eastern English Channel: comparing the Marxan and Zonation decision-support tools. ICES Journal of Marine Science [Online] 69:75-83. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsr180.
    The systematic conservation approach is now commonly used for the design of efficient marine protected area (MPA) networks, and identifying these priority areas often involves using specific conservation-planning software. Several such software programmes have been developed in recent years, each differing in the underlying algorithms used. Here, an investigation is made into whether the choice of software influences the location of priority areas by comparing outputs from Marxan and Zonation, two widely used conservation-planning, decision-support tools. Using biological and socio-economic data from the eastern English Channel, outputs are compared and it is shown that the two software packages identified similar sets of priority areas, although the relatively wide distribution of habitat types and species considered offered much flexibility. Moreover, the similarity increased with increasing spatial constraint, especially when using real-world cost data, suggesting that the choice of cost metric has a greater influence on conservation-planning analyses than the choice of software. However, Marxan generally produced more efficient results and Zonation produced results with greater connectivity, so the most appropriate software package will depend on the overall goals of the MPA planning process.
  • Veríssimo, D., Barua, M., Jepson, P., MacMillan, D. and Smith, R. (2012). Selecting marine invertebrate flagship species: Widening the net. Biological Conservation [Online] 145:4. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2011.11.007.
  • Knight, A., Grantham, H., Smith, R., McGregor, G., Possingham, H. and Cowling, R. (2011). Land managers’ willingness-to-sell defines conservation opportunity for protected area expansion. Biological Conservation [Online] 144:2623-2630. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2011.07.013.
    Spatial prioritization techniques are increasingly applied in the design of protected area networks, which are regarded as the cornerstone of nature conservation efforts. These techniques are becoming ever more sophisticated, but are still founded primarily upon biological data. A common assumption made in most spatial prioritizations is that land throughout a planning region is available for acquisition. We interviewed land managers in the Eastern Cape province, South Africa, and mapped their willingness-to-sell their land using a psychometric analytical technique. We examined the, (i) degree to which vegetation type targets are achieved across a planning region, (ii) areal and cost efficiency, and (iii) spatial configuration, of candidate protected areas identified as important for achieving conservation targets. We found that only 10 out of 48 land managers were willing-to-sell their land. Only seven, five and one of the 19 vegetation types, respectively, could achieve their conservation targets of 10%, 30% and 50% when unwilling land managers were removed from the analysis. Assuming unwilling land managers could be convinced to sell if offered a premium price, the cost of acquiring all lands was between 6.20% and 30.67% more expensive than 2006 land prices. Accounting for implementation opportunities and constraints, such as land manager willingness-to-sell, not simply identifying biological priorities, is of fundamental importance for ensuring spatial prioritizations deliver maps with the potential to usefully guide expansion of protected area networks which can be feasibly implemented.
  • Nhancale, B. and Smith, R. (2011). The influence of planning unit characteristics on the efficiency and spatial pattern of systematic conservation planning assessments. Biodiversity and Conservation [Online] 20:1821-1835. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10531-011-0063-7.
    Systematic conservation planning is a widely used approach for designing protected area systems and ecological networks. This generally involves dividing the planning region into a series of planning units and using computer software to select portfolios of these units that meet specified conservation targets whilst minimising conservation costs. Previous research has shown that changing the size and shape of these planning units can alter the apparent spatial characteristics of the underlying data and thus influence conservation assessment results. However, this may be less problematic when using newer software that can account for additional constraints based on portfolio costs and fragmentation levels. Here we investigate these issues using a dataset from southern Africa and measure the extent to which changing planning unit shape, size and baseline affects the results of conservation planning assessments. We show that using hexagonal planning units instead of squares produces more efficient and less fragmented portfolios and that using larger planning units produces portfolios that are less efficient but more likely to identify the same priority areas. We also show that using real-world constraints in the analysis, based on reducing socio-economic costs and minimising fragmentation levels, reduces the influence of planning unit characteristics on the results and so argue that future studies should adopt a similar approach when investigating factors that influence conservation assessments.
  • Veríssimo, D., MacMillan, D. and Smith, R. (2011). Toward a systematic approach for identifying conservation flagships. Conservation Letters [Online] 4:1-8. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1755-263X.2010.00151.x.
    Flagship species are frequently used by conservation practitioners to raise funds and awareness for reducing biodiversity loss. However, uncertainty remains in the academic literature about the purpose of flagship species and little research has been conducted on improving the effectiveness of these campaigns. To reduce this problem, here, we suggest a new definition that further emphasizes their marketing role and propose an interdisciplinary framework to improve flagship identification, based on methodologies from social marketing, environmental economics, and conservation biology. This framework emphasizes that conservationists should specify the purpose of a campaign before working with the potential target audience to identify the most suitable species, and should monitor the success of their campaigns and feed this back into the marketing process. We then discuss the role of return on investment analyses to determine when funds are best spent on high-profile flagships and when raising the profile of other species is more appropriate. Finally, we discuss how the flagship concept can be applied to other aspects of biodiversity, such as priority regions and species sharing specific traits. Thus, we argue for closer collaboration between researchers and marketing experts to ensure that marketing becomes a mainstream part of the interdisciplinary science of conservation.
  • Knight, A., Sarkar, S., Smith, R., Strange, N. and Wilson, K. (2011). Engage the hodgepodge: management factors are essential when prioritizing areas for restoration and conservation action. Diversity and Distributions [Online] 17:1234-1238. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1472-4642.2011.00789.x.
    Restoration and conservation initiatives, such as the eradication of invasive alien plants, should be guided by scientific evidence. Typically, ecological data alone is used to inform the decision-making of these initiatives. Recent advances in the mapping of conservation opportunity include a diverse range of scientifically-identified factors that determine the feasibility and likely effectiveness of conservation initiatives, and include, for example, data on the willingness and capacity of land managers to be effectively involved. Social research techniques such as interview surveys, phenomenology, and social network analysis are important approaches for securing useful human and social data. These approaches are yet to be widely adopted in restoration initiatives, but could be usefully applied to improve the effective implementation of these initiatives. Restoration and conservation planners will deliver spatial prioritisations which provide more effective and cost-efficient decision-making if they include not simply ecological data, but also data on economic, human, management, social and vulnerability factors that determine implementation effectiveness.

Book section

  • Reecht, Y., Gasche, L., Lehuta, S., Vaz, S., Smith, R., Mahévas, S. and Marchal, P. (2015). Toward a Dynamical Approach for Systematic Conservation Planning of Eastern English Channel Fisheries. In: Ceccaldi, H.-J., Hénocque, Y., Koike, Y., Komatsu, T., Stora, G. and Tusseau-Vuillemin, M.-H. eds. Marine Productivity: Perturbations and Resilience of Socio-Ecosystems. Springer International Publishing, pp. 175-185. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-13878-7_19.
    In the past decade, systematic conservation planning tools have been increasingly and successfully used to set spatial conservation plans that meet quantitative protection targets while minimizing enforcement and socioeconomic costs. However, when applied to fisheries, systematic conservation planning fails to account for (1) changes in fleet dynamics induced by new conservation constraints and their associated feedbacks on conservation costs or (2) their influence on fish population dynamics and distributions, which may in turn alter the achievement of conservation targets. Such a static approach may therefore lead to short- or medium-term misestimates in forecasted costs and target achievements. In order to circumvent such limitations of systematic conservation planning, we present a first attempt to couple a conservation planning tool (Marxan with Zones) with a mixed fisheries dynamics simulation model (ISIS-Fish), applied to the Eastern English Channel fisheries. Broad principles and perspectives are discussed and anticipated future challenges of such an approach are presented.


  • Thomas‐Walters, L., Veríssimo, D., Gadsby, E., Roberts, D. and Smith, R. (2020). Taking a more nuanced look at behavior change for demand reduction in the illegal wildlife trade. Conservation Science and Practice [Online]. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/csp2.248.
    The illegal wildlife trade threatens the future of many species, and undermines economies and livelihoods. Conservationists have largely responded with supply‐side interventions, such as antipoaching patrols, but these often fail to stem the tide of wildlife trafficking. There is now increasing interest in demand‐side interventions, which seek to lower poaching pressure on sought‐after species by reducing consumer's desire for, and purchase of, specific wildlife products. Individual behavior change approaches, from environmental education to social marketing, have been widely advocated by academics, practitioners, and policy makers. However, this is an emerging field and we lack the breadth of evidence needed to understand and predict the potential outcomes of demand reduction interventions. To help us gain broader insights, we examine the literature from public health and international development on the effectiveness of behavior change interventions, and critique the current conceptualization of strategies for reducing consumer demand in the illegal wildlife trade. We show that behavior change is difficult to achieve and interventions may have unintended and undesirable consequences because of unaddressed systemic, cultural and environmental drivers, and limited resourcing. We conclude that some sections of the conservation community are advocating a shift from one reductionist approach based on limiting supply, to another based on limiting demand, and argue that conservationists should learn from the public health and international development projects that have integrated systems thinking. By accounting for the multiple interactions and synergies between different factors in the wildlife trade, we can develop more strategic approaches to protecting endangered species.
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