Synthesising and sharing bird data can help assess the effectiveness of conservation interventions

Campbell Islands Teal, © Helen Gummer

Currently, many conservation management interventions are made based on anecdotal information rather than a systematic appraisal of the available evidence for their effectiveness. Conservation Evidence ( is an ambitious project that is attempting to make conservation more effective by collating, summarising and disseminating the evidence for the effectiveness of conservation interventions.

Although there are many examples of successful conservation initiatives and an extensive literature on the effectiveness of different management interventions, this body of evidence is currently used only patchily by conservation practitioners (Pullin et al. 2004). Many decisions regarding conservation interventions are based upon anecdotal sources rather than a systematic appraisal of the evidence, and some conventionally accepted practices have been shown to be ill-founded when tested (Sutherland et al. 2004). In the last few decades, medical practice has been revolutionised by a so-called “effectiveness revolution”, and there have been calls within conservation for an equivalent move towards evidence-based conservation (Sutherland 2000, Pullin and Knight 2001, Sutherland et al. 2004).

The Conservation Evidence Project is an ambitious attempt to make conservation more effective by sharing global experience of conservation practice, and collating the evidence for the effectiveness of conservation interventions. The online, open-access journal Conservation Evidence, launched in 2004, provides a forum for the publication of case studies on the success (or otherwise) of practical management interventions. It currently has in excess of 150 papers from around the world, including studies of interventions for globally threatened bird species such as the reintroduction of Campbell Islands Teals Anas nesiotis (McClelland and Gummer 2006), the manipulation of nests of the Chatham Oystercatcher Haematopus chathamensis (e.g. Moore and Williams 2005), the translocation of Seychelles Magpie-robins Copsychus sechellarum (López-Sepulcre et al. 2008) and the provision of nest boxes for Lesser Kestrels Falco naumanni (Bux et al. 2008).

Complementing these novel case studies, the Conservation Evidence web site also supports a searchable database that provides access to over a thousand summaries distilling the key evidence from papers published elsewhere in the scientific literature. Although this resource already covers a number of key conservation and ecology journals, a three-year collaboration between the University of Cambridge and BirdLife International is attempting to summarise relevant papers from all the key ornithological journals.

Pulling together these resources—as well as information from systematic reviews, such as those commissioned by the Centre for Evidence-based Conservation—the aim is to produce short synopses summarising the evidence for the effectiveness of specific interventions, with the ultimate ambition of changing global conservation practice so that the use of evidence becomes routine when deciding upon interventions.




Pullin, A. S. and Knight, T. M. (2001) Effectiveness in conservation practice: pointers from medicine and public health. Conserv. Biol. 15: 50–54.
Pullin, A. S., Knight, T. M., Stone, D. A. and Charman, K. (2004) Do conservation managers use scientific evidence to support their decision-making? Biol. Conserv. 119: 245–252.
Sutherland, W. J. (2000) The conservation handbook: research, management and policy. Oxford: Blackwell Science.
Sutherland, W. J., Pullin, A. S., Dolman, P. M. and Knight, T. M. (2004) The need for evidence-based conservation. Trends Ecol. Evol. 19: 305–308.


Rob Pople (Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge). Conservation Evidence is funded by NERC and the British Ecological Society. The initiative to review the bird literature is a partnership between the University of Cambridge and BirdLife International, in collaboration with the British Trust for Ornithology, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Natural England, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Scottish Natural Heritage and UNEP–WCMC.

Compiled 2008

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2008) Synthesising and sharing bird data can help assess the effectiveness of conservation interventions. Presented as part of the BirdLife State of the world's birds website. Available from: . Checked: