Understanding What Works: Impact Evaluation for Conservation, Climate and Development

Understanding What Works: Impact Evaluation for Conservation, Climate and Development

Understanding What Works: Impact Evaluation for Conservation, Climate and Development

Countries: Global

Partners: International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie)

Summary: Understanding the current state of knowledge on the effectiveness of interventions is the key first step in identifying critical evidence gaps which should be prioritised to support future conservation policy, decision-making and financial investment. Investing in impact evaluation aims to systematically identify, review and summarise existing evidence on what works for conservation, climate and development interventions, and to define a clear approach to address identified priority evidence gaps.

Activities

The project has focused on 2 main activities:

  • Updating an existing Evidence Gap Map (EGM) on Land Use Change and Forestry interventions. An EGM identifies and describes the evidence base measuring the effectiveness of programmes against different outcomes.
  • Producing a framework from which an EGM can be created for Climate Change and Biodiversity. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of international frameworks to address the climate change and biodiversity crises that underpin the GCBC. Developing an evidence base on effective interventions to address these crises is critical, and 3ie have looked to develop an EGM framework that will act as the starting point for strategic and coordinated evidence generation and synthesis activities.

 

Transparency and Traceability of Forest Risk Commodities

Countries: Global

Partners: World Resources Institute (WRI), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Summary: The Traceability and Transparency (T&T) research project forms a UK contribution towards the international dialogue on the traceability and transparency of supply chains of internationally traded agricultural commodities including supporting discussions in the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Dialogue. During its COP26 Presidency the UK launched the FACT Dialogue, with Indonesia as co-chair. The government-to-government Dialogue brings together the 28 of the largest producers and consumers of Forest Risk Commodities (FRCs), such as palm oil, soya, beef, cocoa and timber, to protect forests and other ecosystems while promoting sustainable trade and development and addressing the climate and biodiversity crises. The T&T research report aims to support growing an understanding of the state of global traceability and transparency systems in order to provide key stakeholders with the understanding they need to promote and guide positive change for people and forests. The T&T project provides a synthesis of the state-of-play regarding T&T of FRCs to enable a more comprehensive and data-driven response that stakeholders from both the FACT Dialogue and the international community can use to make evidence-based decisions in pursuit of our shared goals.

Related links: Traceability and Transparency in Supply Chains for Agricultural and Forest Commodities | World Resources Institute

Central and Eastern European Conflict Timber project

Countries: Main timber sample collection areas: Ukraine and Belarus; Additional timber samples also collected from: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Croatia and Moldova.

Partners: World Forest ID (WFID), Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

Summary: In light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the opportunity for Russia to finance the war or subsequent occupation through sales of timber, the Central and Eastern European Conflict Timber project seeks to build on existing voluntary measures, punitive tariffs and sanctions on the direct import of timber to make it harder for Russia to circumvent these measures. Specifically, this project is designed to support the widespread use of scientific testing techniques to scrutinize claims about the origin of timber from this region. Current reference libraries lack samples of key species which grow in Russia but also throughout Ukraine and neighbouring countries. This project therefore aims to build up a georeferenced database of timber samples so products in trade can be tested against this reference data to validate the species and location of harvest.

A trait-based understanding of Latin American biodiversity programme forest biodiversity and resilience (ARBOLES project)

Countries: Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Peru

Partners: UK: 4 universities (Leeds, Lancaster, Oxford and Imperial College London) and the Natural History Museum; Latin America: Universidad Nacional de Cordoba (Argentina), Universidad Austral de Chile (Chile), National Institute for Space Research (Brazil), Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonia Peruana (Peru)

Summary: The Amazon rainforest occupies a uniquely important place in the Earth System. Spanning an area of 5.5 million km, the Amazon’s forests are the most biodiverse on the planet, absorb 5-10% of global CO2 emissions and sustain rainfall regionally.  However, the invaluable ecosystem and climate services provided by Amazon rainforests are currently under severe threat from deforestation and changing climate. Concerns have been raised that continued forest loss and climate change may lead to a tipping point, beyond which forests would no longer be sustained and replaced by savanna vegetation. The global change threat to the Amazon is most pronounced in southern Amazonia, where deforestation, maximum temperature increases and reduced dry season rainfall have been markedly more pronounced than other Amazon regions.  An understanding of how forests in southern Amazonia are changing and of their sensitivity to global change stressors is imperative for improved prediction and for climate-smart conservation of Amazon forests more generally. ARBOLES aims to understand the plant functional trait basis of LATAM forest biodiversity and resilience, by investigating the sensitivity of important southern Amazonian tree species to two key climatic stressors, heat and drought.

 

Kew Gardens: State of the World’s Plants and Fungi Symposium programme

Tackling the nature emergency: Evidence, gaps and priorities

In conjunction with the publication of a groundbreaking report, scientists, policymakers, businesses, NGOs, the public and media will come together for the fifth international State of the World’s Symposium.

Plants and fungi are the building blocks of our planet, with the potential to solve some of the greatest challenges facing humanity. But the vital resources and services they provide depend on diverse, healthy ecosystems. The future of these ecosystems, and life as we know it, hinges on the decisions we make today.

In October 2023 we will be publishing, in collaboration with international researchers, the fifth in our series of State of the World’s Plants and Fungi reports. The report takes a deep dive into our current knowledge on plant and fungal diversity and distribution – what we know, what we don’t know and where we need to focus our efforts.

This three-day hybrid symposium brings together experts to discuss findings presented in the report and to identify actions for understanding and protecting the world’s plant and fungal diversity. The discussions will be used to create a declaration containing a shared agreement and action plan for where scientific institutions aim to focus their collecting and research efforts to achieve the targets of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

 

Date and time: 11 to 13 October 2023, daily timings vary

Location: Kew Gardens and online (hybrid event)

Demonstrating the value of drones and remote sensing to a rural community in the Philippines (Bio+Mine project)

One of the key questions for management of legacy mines is to find an affordable way to monitor abandoned sites. Remote sensing provides both active and passive sensing technologies; however, a large skills gap lies between remote sensing technology and the ability to apply it locally. Nearly 40 years of analysed satellite imagery indicates that the Santo Niño site, in the Philippines, has not yet recovered to pre-mining conditions. Though the site shows improvements through time, the resolution of the satellite data is not high enough to assess how local biodiversity has evolved. Drones and associated imaging technologies can deliver centimeter-scale resolution images, solving this issue.

An aim of the Bio+Mine project is to carry out repeated high-resolution multi-drone survey of the entire study site to: i) provide spatio-temporal context to support the interpretation of the other in-situ measurements, ii) collect high-resolution data to inform the decadal results from satellite data, and iii) showcase how drone technology and machine learning can be used to manage natural resources efficiently.

Positive impacts

This project used two drone systems operated by trained graduate and undergraduate students supported by research assistants from the Philippines. Two full site surveys were performed and data delivered a new 3D digital elevation model for the area, providing a baseline for future land stability assessments. Drones also proved to be excellent tools for community outreach, attracting curiosity and engagement with the local population as well as local authorities.

Challenges

The main challenges involved international air travel with drones (including lithium battery transport), difficulty complying with drone flying regulations, and the lack of active signals from the Continuously Operating Reference Stations network in the Philippines. Moreover, deploying drones efficiently and safely in mountainous terrain over vast areas was challenging and required experience.

Lessons learnt and next steps

Going forward, the project aims to train and enroll local partners to fly drones and support the creation of a survey startup. The cost of acquiring new drones limits local engagement. However, work has already begun in partnership with AminoLab, the innovation branch of Dela Salle University, to develop a 2.5 million PHP (~£60,000) entrepreneurship programme capable of supporting approximately ten companies.