Saving a threatened species is a big task often requiring the effort of many people over a sustained period. The way these people organise themselves (the
rules they follow, the networks they form, the way they make decisions) is critical to the success of any species recovery program. The way people
organise themselves is known as governance and Angela Guerrero is working with the TSR Hub to understand what forms of governance help a recovery effort
(and what forms may hinder it.)
“The majority of science on saving threatened species focuses on the ecological side of the problem,” says Dr Guerrero. “My research focuses on the people side; how governance systems and the decision-making processes can be designed to enable effective management. At the end of the day, species are saved by people so understanding how people organise themselves to undertake this task is important.”
The work is part of her broader interest in understanding the human and ecological dimensions of conservation. She applies research methods that allow her to analyse social-ecological systems, to map their structure and attempt to understand how they operate over different scales of space and time.
“My research looks at complex interactions between humans and nature,” she says. “A better understanding of these interactions helps us to design effective management interventions.
“My work with the TSR Hub focusses on the governance of threatened species recovery efforts – in particular the processes of implementing recovery plans. I’m examining recovery efforts across Australia in an effort to identify the barriers and enablers of successful recovery efforts.
“In the broadest sense governance can sometimes be characterised as being ‘bottom-up’ where people and groups organise themselves; or ‘top-down’ where people follow instructions from above. My research shows that while bottom-up governance structures enable some environmental challenges to be addressed, they are not always the most effective approach. Depending on the governance challenge, top-down guidance is sometimes necessary so that ecological complexity that sometimes cuts across multiple management scales can be adequately dealt with.”
The more she studies governance, the more Dr Guerrero has come to realise how important it is to good conservation outcomes.
“I’ve discovered there is so much we still do not know about effective governance in conservation,” she explains.
“In many ways Australia is at the forefront of conservation science. We are world leaders in the science that underpins ‘good’ conservation and environmental decision making. However, it has become clear to me that we need to better understand the governance behind our decision making and incorporate this in the management tools we produce.
“It’s a fascinating challenge and one I hope to advance in the years ahead.”
Top image: Angela Guerrero has interviewed a wide range of people about how team structure can help or hinder effectiveness of recovery groups. Image: Jaana Dielenberg
With other concerned conservation biologists, researchers from the Threatened Species Recovery Hub have developed a ‘blueprint’ for management responses to the 2019-20 wildfires. This report can be downloaded from our website.
The Threatened Species Recovery Hub of the National Environmental Science Program expresses our sympathy to everyone whose life has been impacted by these horrific fires, and acknowledges the heartbreak of families who have lost everything, including loved ones.
Many landscapes in Australia are fire-prone, and increasingly so. Altered fire regimes can have a serious negative impact on threatened plant species and ecological communities. A Threatened Species Recovery Hub project is working to better understand the effects of different fire regimes on threatened flora in order to improve fire management strategies and conservation outcomes.
Almost a quarter of Australia’s possums and gliders are listed as threatened under Australian environmental law, and many more are showing signs of decline. Dr Rochelle Steven from The University of Queensland believes people in the community can do a lot to support conservation, especially in urban areas.
The detection and monitoring of threatened species have been a strong area of research in the National Environmental Science Program and also the two national environmental research programs which preceded it. Hub Director Professor Brendan Wintle takes a look at what we’ve been achieving and why it is so important to the conservation of Australia’s threatened species.