Supporting the adaptive capacity of species through more effective knowledge exchange with conservation practitioners

Authors: Carly N Cook, Erik A Beever, Lindsey L Thurman, Laura M Thompson, John E Gross, Andrew R Whiteley, Adrienne B Nicotra, Jennifer A Szymanski, Carlos A Botero, Kimberly R Hall, Ary A Hoffmann, Gregor W Schuurman, and Carla M Sgrò

Published in: Evolutionary Applications


There is an imperative for conservation practitioners to help biodiversity adapt to accelerating environmental change.

Evolutionary biologists are well-positioned to inform the development of evidence-based management strategies that support the adaptive capacity of species and ecosystems. Conservation practitioners increasingly accept that management practices must accommodate rapid environmental change, but harbour concerns about how to apply recommended changes to their management contexts. Given the interest from both conservation practitioners and evolutionary biologists in adjusting management practices, we believe there is an opportunity to accelerate the required changes by promoting closer collaboration between these two groups.

Left: A robust evidence base to support successful management practices, based on an incremental scaling up in spatial extent and ecological complexity. Right: Four elements involved in supporting effective knowledge exchange.

We highlight how evolutionary biologists can harness lessons from other disciplines about how to foster effective knowledge exchange to make a substantive contribution to the development of effective conservation practices. These lessons include the following:

  1. recognizing why practitioners do and do not use scientific evidence
  2. building an evidence base that will influence management decisions
  3. translating theory into a format that conservation practitioners can use to inform management practices; and
  4. developing strategies for effective knowledge exchange.

Although efforts will be required on both sides, we believe there are rewards for both practitioners and evolutionary biologists, not least of which is fostering practices to help support the long-term persistence of species.


Cook CN, Beever EA, Thurman LL, Thompson LM, Gross JE, Whiteley AR, Nicotra AB, Szymanski JA, Botero CA, Hall KR, Hoffmann AA, Schuurman GW, Sgrò CM (2021) Supporting the adaptive capacity of species through more effective knowledge exchange with conservation practitioners. Evolutionary Applications PDF DOI