Is the Latest Science Being Applied to Recovery Plans?
As we convert ecosystems to our uses other plants and animals either adapt to the new conditions, or move to another area. Failing that, they die. Over exploitation of natural resources, be they fish or trees, is comparatively easy to deal with. Habitat loss for non human species is relentless, diffuse, and proving difficult to stop. The scale of what we are letting slip away was recognized 100 years ago by non other than a conservative Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt.
Scientists who engage in the politics of conservation have to resolve a professional conflict. Scientists are trained to be objective, to guard against their own preconceptions and let the facts fall into place. Once a scientist crosses the line to become an advocate, even if it's for a modicum of restraint, their objectivity is open to question. However, the attitude that scientists must remain above the fray or else compromise their objectivity is in our opinion a false dichotomy. Scientists must of course strive for objectivity when they do science. That does not excuse them from our common obligation as caretakers of our natural heritage to work in politics on behalf of endangered species and conservation in general.
We spoke with John Stinchcombe about how science is being applied on behalf of endangered species. Using information from a review of 136 recovery plans he and his co-authors evaluated the flow of scientific information to the people who write and implement recovery plans; for example, how advances in genetics are being applied to real world conservation problems.