My research focuses on understanding and assessing the impact of conservation interventions and in particular how resources, management, governance, and socio-economic context influences the effectiveness and performance of protected areas. I primarily address this through a global lens, utilizing large global dataset from conservation organizations, research institutions as well as from remote-sensing sources to develop correlative models of what predicts conservation success when possible through the use of quasi-experimental methods and setups. This work currently has three (3) overarching themes:
Global patterns of anthropogenic threats to biodiversity
Funded by the Sapere Aude Research leader programme of the Independent Research fund Denmark, I work on mapping the distribution of threats to biodiversity to gain a deeper understanding of what drives global patterns as well as how they relate to conservation interventions. Using the IUCN Red List data for all amphibians, birds, and mammals I have together with colleagues generated global maps of the ‘likelihood of impact’ for the five main threats to biodiversity identified by IPBES. Using these maps, I am interested in understanding what socio-economic, biological, and geological factors explains the geographical patterns of threats and how they relate to conservation interventions and the overarching human drivers of biodiversity declines. I am also interested in how threats interact to identify areas under higher threat than predicted by simply overlaying the likelihoods of individual ones.
Understanding the impact of protected area
Protected areas are amongst the most important conservation interventions and cover more than 15% of Earths terrestrial surface with international ambitions to increase that number to 30% by 2030. Thus, understanding whether protected areas safeguard biodiversity and the livelihood of people living in and around them is paramount. I investigate these questions using data on management effectiveness, socio-economic context, as well as conservation outcomes (e.g., threat reduction or changes in biodiversity) and applying quasi-experimental approaches (like statistical matching) to gain a deeper understanding of what makes protected areas effective.
Improving the effectiveness of protected areas
How to measure and assess the effectiveness of protected areas required balancing the cost and time committed to evaluations, with capturing the right information to improve effectiveness at the site-level. At the same time, information from protected area assessments can generate data that can be used to explore the question of effectiveness more broadly and identify best-practices. Through our involvement in the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas’ Management Effectiveness Specialist Group I work with managers across to world to understand how to best capture the essential elements of management for tracking progress at the global and national levels, as well as how that can be used to improve evidence-based conservation practices on the ground.
I organize the MSc course ‘International Nature Conservation’ which runs in block 3 (ca. February to April) each year. The course focuses on providing students with an overview of the key topics related to conservation science following the Pressure-State-Response framework.
I also contribute to the summer courses (block 5) ‘Herpetology’ and ‘Citizen Science’ offered by the Globe Institute and Natural History Museum of Denmark respectively.
MSc and BSc students (current)
- Anna Elmgreen (MSc) – focused on understanding the role of evidence in the management of Canadian protected areas (co-supervised with Neil D. Burgess)
- Julie Munk Sejer (MSc) – focused on understanding the role of protected areas globally in mitigating threats to biodiversity
- Claire Ract (Erasmus MSc) – focused on understanding conservation priorities and the role of different protected area types in Tanzania (co-supervised with Neil D Burgess)
- Amanda Lillelund Kjersner (MSc) – focused on understanding the effectiveness of Canadian protected areas (co-supervised with Neil D. Burgess)
MSc and BSc students (past)
- Alexander Jakob Kolsboe Knarberg (BSc) – focused on understanding how the concept of “Ecological integrity” is used in nature management
- Jana Tabea Schultz (MSc) – focused on understanding the role of protected areas globally in conserving genetic diversity (co-supervised with David Nogués-Bravo)
- Alanah Hayley Lewis (MSc) – focused on developing a temporal indicator to monitor changes in the effectiveness of protected area management (co-supervised with Neil D Burgess and Michael Krabbe Borregaard)