Exposing ecological and economic costs of the research-implementation gap and compromises in decision making

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Kareksela, Santtu, Atte Moilanen, Olli Ristaniemi, Reima Välivaara, and Janne S. Kotiaho
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The frequently discussed gap between conservation science and practice is manifest in the gap between spatial conservation prioritization plans and their implementation. We analyzed the research-implementation gap of 1 zoning case by comparing results of a spatial prioritization analysis aimed at avoiding ecological impact of peat mining in a regional zoning process with the final zoning plan. We examined the relatively complex planning process to determine the gaps among research, zoning, and decision making. We quantified the ecological costs of the differing trade-offs between ecological and socioeconomic factors included in the different zoning suggestions by comparing the landscape-level loss of ecological features (species occurrences, habitat area, etc.) between the different solutions for spatial allocation of peat mining. We also discussed with the scientists and planners the reasons for differing zoning suggestions. The implemented plan differed from the scientists suggestion in that its focus was individual ecological features rather than all the ecological features for which there were data; planners and decision makers considered effects of peat mining on areas not included in the prioritization analysis; zoning was not truly seen as a resource-allocation process and emphasized in general minimizing ecological losses while satisfying economic needs (peat-mining potential); and decision makers based their prioritization of sites on site-level information showing high ecological value and on single legislative factors instead of finding a cost-effective landscape-level solution. We believe that if the zoning and decision-making processes are very complex, then the usefulness of science-based prioritization tools is likely to be reduced. Nevertheless, we found that high-end tools were useful in clearly exposing trade-offs between conservation and resource utilization.


Kareksela, Santtu, Atte Moilanen, Olli Ristaniemi, Reima Välivaara, and Janne S. Kotiaho. 2017. “Exposing Ecological and Economic Costs of the Research-Implementation Gap and Compromises in Decision Making.” Conservation Biology.