Abstract: I suggest that a conservation crisis is a predictable sequence of five stages: population decline, crisis management, stabilization, precarious recovery, and sustained recovery. Each stage has different research priorities, constraints, and opportunities that cause a mismatch between conservation needs and research practice. The conservation crisis over the rhinoceros was characterized by rapid decline due to illegal hunting and trade in rhinoceros horn. I conducted a literature review ( 1980–2000 ) on rhinoceros during this crisis to illustrate the five stages. I also examined the bibliographies of the African and Asian conservation action plans to illustrate literature availability and use. I sought to determine whether a retrospective understanding of trends in the scientific literature during conservation crises could help us better target research efforts and meet the challenge of conserving rare species. The scientific literature on rhinoceros increased during the crisis but became dominated by ex situ laboratory‐based studies, whereas the number of in situ ecological studies remained low, although the conservation action plans identified in situ and ecological studies as conservation priorities. Moreover, the bibliographies of the conservation action plans were dominated by unpublished material ( 56% ), and only 25% of citations came from scientific journals, although peer review and critique contributes to maintaining and improving the quality of conservation science. Thus, I suggest that research matched conservation needs poorly. However, the predictability of the crisis sequence means that it should be possible to preempt conservation research needs. The effect of a conservation crisis on research may be ameliorated by abandoning the dualism of applied and basic research and better targeting research effort by identifying when research is relatively unimportant, exploiting opportunities for science by management, establishing collaborative publishing relationships between managers and researchers, and prioritizing in situ ecological research.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Aug 1, 2003
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