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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

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Cooperation is key to conservation wins

28
Aug 2018

Posted By

ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies

Conservation biologist, Prof. Graeme Cumming says that the success or failure of conservation efforts depends heavily on cooperation between different stakeholders.

“Good science is necessary, but not sufficient to achieve effective solutions.”

His recently published paper proposes a new framework to bring together ideas about management syndromes, social-ecological traps, and social dilemmas.

Cumming says conservation failures often occur when people are placed in a dilemma situation, in which they must choose between individual (person or organisation) and group (broader society) benefits.

“Social dilemmas create winners and losers,” explains Cumming. “Where groups or individuals cannot change their behaviour without incurring a large penalty—whether economic or in terms of prestige—they may become ‘locked in’ to a particular solution, even if this solution is not feasible or scientifically supported.”

He adds that conservation problems share a relatively small number of common patterns, or “syndromes.” Recognising these syndromes in a given problematic situation can help managers and policy makers take more effective steps to correct or resolve them.

The paper reviews dilemmas and traps as syndromes, and summarises alternative solutions for resolving them. Cumming says many of our ongoing environmental problems could be quite easily resolved if everyone would cooperate in solving them.

“For example, a lack of cooperation is one of the main barriers to reducing climate change,” he says. “Imagine how different the world would be if everybody were willing to reduce reliance on fossil fuels—and other non-renewable resources—and live an environmentally responsible life.”

“If we can understand why cooperation works, or fails, then perhaps we can cooperate successfully more often.”

“Furthermore, if we can identify dynamics that are shared between different kinds of conservation failure and success, then we can draw on knowledge from a wide range of case studies instead of treating each study system as unique. The ability to develop general principles that have relevance across many different situations is precisely what gives science its power.”

Prof. Cumming will be the first speaker at the “Future of Coral Reefs” session opening the Coral Reef Futures Symposium in Brisbane this week.

His talk “Beyond planetary boundaries: understanding the implications of global development for coral reefs” will focus on the formation of alternate states in national economies and the relevance of these dynamics for the environment.

Full paper available here.

A selection of Symposium talks are available here.

Credit: Fernanda Terra-Stori
Credit: Fernanda Terra-Stori

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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au