, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 865-872

Focusing biodiversity research on the needs of decision makers

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Abstract

The project on Biodiversity Uncertainties and Research Needs (BURN) ensures the advancement of usable knowledge on biodiversity by obtaining input from decision makers on their priority information needs about biodiversity and then using this input to engage leading scientists in designing policy-relevant research. Decision makers articulated concerns related to four issues: significance of biodiversity; status and trends of biodiversity; management for biodiversity; and the linkage of social, cultural, economic, legal, and biological objectives. Leading natural and social scientists then identified the research required to address the decision makers' needs and determined the probability of success. The diverse group of experts reached consensus on several fundamental issues, helping to clarify the role of biodiversity in land and resource management. The BURN participants identified several features that should be incorporated into policy-relevant research plans and management strategies for biodiversity. Research and assessment efforts should be: multidisciplinary and integrative, participatory with stakeholder involvement, hierarchical (multiple scales), and problem- and region-specific. The activities should be focused regionally within a global perspective. Meta-analysis of existing data is needed on all fronts to assess the state of the science. More specifically, the scientists recommended six priority research areas that should be pursued to address the information needs articulated by decision makers: (1) characterization of biodiversity, (2) environmental valuation, (3) management for sustainability—for humans and the environment (adaptive management), (4) information management strategies, (5) governance and stewardship issues, and (6) communication and outreach. Broad recommendations were developed for each research area to provide direction for research planning and resource management strategies. The results will directly benefit those groups that require biodiversity research to address their needs—whether to develop policy, manage natural resources, or make other decisions affecting biodiversity.