Harnessing biodiversity data to inform policy: Rapid regional audits should underpin Local Nature Recovery Strategies

Liam Crowther, James Gilroy, Robert Hawkes, Will J Peach, Daniel Salliss, Jonathan Webb, Paul Dolman

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Abstract

Nature recovery actions within anthropogenic landscapes typically target small and unrepresentative species sub-sets, or generic habitat features that are assumed to benefit wider suites of species, despite incomplete understanding of what these species are, or of their autecological needs. These limitations in the evidence underpinning conservation contribute to continuing biodiversity losses.

Experimental evidence shows improved outcomes follow the use of spatially-targeted audits of multi-taxa biodiversity information, allowing actions to be tailored towards the ecological requirements of complete local species pools. We illustrate how this approach could be integrated into environmental policy, with particular reference to the European Union's 2030 Biodiversity Strategy and the UK Environment Act 2021's Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS).

Biodiversity auditing uses existing repositories of species occurrence and functional trait data to group priority species into cross-taxa ‘management guilds’ that share similar responses to conservation interventions, allowing practitioners to identify and implement regionally-optimized, evidence-based action plans. Where previously implemented, this approach has successfully transformed conservation practices at bioregional scales, increasing the richness and abundance of priority species relative to pre-existing management.

We provide methods for incorporating rapid low-cost biodiversity auditing into local conservation strategies, to ensure these support the widest complement of priority biodiversity. Failure to adopt a data-driven approach risks reproducing previously ineffective paradigms, and thus failing to seize vital chances to reverse declines in biodiversity. We further argue that researchers should prioritize the development of accessible tools to support authorities to incorporate species data into strategic landscape-scale conservation design.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110004
JournalBiological Conservation
Volume282
Early online date7 Apr 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Keywords

  • Biodiversity audit approach
  • Citizen science
  • Conservation management
  • Ecological networks
  • Habitat restoration
  • Landscape-scale conservation

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