Transforming our research and action for biodiversity future
ISF’s Dr Federico Davila tells about his latest co-authored publication in Nature Sustainability, which discusses possible future scenarios and the importance of imagination for biodiversity conservation. The paper is one of the culminating findings from the multi-year initiative Biodiversity Revisited, led by the Luc Hoffmann Institute, WWF, in partnership with ETH Zurich and Cambridge University, Future Earth, and University College London.
Photo: Participants from the Biodiversity Revisited initiative in Bellagio, February 2020.
What is Biodiversity Revisited and why is it important?
Biodiversity Revisited has recently concluded. For two years, the initiative focused on conducting a global, collaborative review of the narratives, principles, and practices underpinning biodiversity. The project included more than 300 experts from different countries, sectors, disciplines, and career stages. It was built on principles of knowledge diversity inclusion, and used existing science of biodiversity to ask critical questions on what can be done differently to transform how we manage biodiversity.
The project is important because despite an abundance of scientific evidence saying that biodiversity is under critical threat, global efforts have failed to transform how we manage biodiversity and our relationship with it.
What is the Nature Sustainability publication about?
At its core, the commentary argues that we must move beyond an 'us vs them' mentality and build inclusive and diverse futures. Conservation can no longer live in linear, siloed spaces, but must take a fresh, conscious, integrated approach. Our futures depend on innovation and collaboration, people and nature, justice and eco-sustainability, gender equity and development.
The commentary proposes tools from the fields of anticipatory and futures thinking, which enable creativity and imagination of what could or should occur to help us guide biodiversity actions. Thinking about the future, we argue, is deeply political and deeply embedded in our world-views and socio-cultural systems.
The commentary appears in the latest issue of Nature Sustainability and is available open access for four weeks. Underpinning the commentary is the Research and Action agenda developed by the project, which has four major chapters on how we can do biodiversity research and practice differently.
What has been unique about Biodiversity Revisited?
There are three major characteristics of Biodiversity Revisited that have made it unique. The first is its focus on inclusion and diversity of perspectives, values, and cultures. The project leadership team went to substantial lengths to invite participants from different career stages, geographies, genders, and disciplines. This provided very rich, but also very complex, discussions on how to advance the research.
The second was the diversity of outputs. The initiative attracted, for example, outstanding early-career essays through a competition, giving an opportunity for up-and-coming professionals to contribute to the research project. We also produced a Research and Action agenda, the Nature Sustainability commentary, a Fuller Seminar webinar attended by 100 people, and a substantial amount of social media outputs.
The third was the focus on taking a rigorous co-production approach to the project – something very hard to do with so many voices involved. The project leaders managed to create a safe space for complex deliberations that brought together different knowledge and perspectives. Replicating this at this scale will be an important challenge for those seeking to pursue genuine co-production in future sustainability projects.
What are the implications for research and policy from this project?
We hope there is something for everyone in both the Nature Sustainability commentary and in the Research and Action agenda. This is a research piece, and draws from many disciplines that traditionally do not engage with biodiversity issues. We hope it can complement and advance existing work in policy and research to support future biodiversity. The action focus is important, as we call for research to have an impact orientation and focus generating positive change. Action also calls for increased use of evidence in decision-making to increase our chances of conserving biodiversity for future generations.
The Nature Sustainability commentary is here.
The Biodiversity Revisited Research and Action Agenda is here.
The webinar to the Fuller Seminar is here.
The Biodiversity Revisited Initiative was supported by generous funding from the MAVA Foundation, the NOMIS Foundation, and WWF. In addition, The Rockefeller Foundation and the Foundation for Environmental Conservation generously supported two writing workshops in Bellagio (17-21 February 2020) and in Davos (22-25 February 2020), respectively, which were instrumental in finalising the Research and Action Agenda.