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To Monitor or Not to Monitor

By Eve-McDonald-Madden

At its heart, good environmental monitoring needs a clear justification for acquiring information in the first place. What we strive to know should be driven by what we need to know.

Dr Eve Macdonald-Madden is a Key Researcher with the National Environmental Research Program Environmental Decisions Hub (NERP ED). NERP is funded by the Australian Government. NERP ED forms part of the Environmental Decisions Group.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

If you were to ask a room full of managers, policy-makers and even scientists if they should be monitoring the outcomes of their conservation actions, the answer from most would be a resounding yes! The argument being that if we don’t understand the benefits of our investment, how can we possibly know if we are doing the right thing and if our investment is worth it!

But in a resource-constrained world it’s worth taking a moment to consider what it is you’re hoping to achieve. When we did this and attempted to formalise the logic behind when to monitor it quickly became clear there are many situations where monitoring is not appropriate.

Essentially, we do not have enough money to manage all the threatened biodiversity we care about. We need to make good decisions about where we spend our limited resources.

The same is true for monitoring. Also important is that biodiversity loss waits for no man (or no monitoring) – we may not actually have time to gain information to improve our decision-making before we lose what we are trying to protect.

That’s not to say that those who answer “yes” to monitoring are not thinking about money. In fact, one of the most common questions I get asked is how much of our program budget should we be spending on monitoring? Is there a set percentage you can tell us to put aside to monitor our conservation actions...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.