Optimising monitoring

Optimising monitoring as a conservation tool

Period: October 2006 – November 2009

Researchers: Aidan Keane | Matt Sommerville | Emily Nicholson | Navinder Singh

Dr Julia Jones (University of Wales, Bangor)
Dr. John Fa (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust)
Dr Richard Young (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust)

Aims and Objectives

The overall aim of this project was to develop a framework for optimal monitoring of conservation activities, integrating both monitoring for compliance and monitoring for detection of biodiversity trends. Our objectives were:

  • To build models to explore the effectiveness and efficiency of agreements to monitor both resource users’ behaviour and populations of conserved species.
  • To investigate the robustness of different forms of agreements using case studies from Madagascar.
  • To expand the results of the case studies to a wider set of situations and explore changes in key parameters.
  • To make recommendations for the design of community-based conservation schemes.

Broad Findings

We have shown that conservation interventions need to consider the individual-level incentives experienced by their targets if they are to succeed. Whether or not law enforcement activities are effective depends both on the incentives to comply experienced by potential poachers and the incentives to monitor experienced by rangers. Similarly, schemes that pay for conservation activities need to be structured so that those who experience the costs of conservation also experience the benefits. Resource users are more likely to reach agreements amongst themselves to monitor and conserve biodiversity if they are empowered to distribute rewards and punishments than if these incentives are externally imposed.

We have also highlighted the importance of ensuring that monitoring data are able to demonstrate trends in the processes of interest. In cases where monitoring results are likely to be biased, e.g. ranger patrol data or observational data for rare and difficult to detect species, these biases need to be recognised and controlled for, either in the design of the monitoring programme or (less satisfactorily) in the analysis of the data. Where conservation payments are conditional on monitoring results, it is particularly important that these results are reliable.


This project produced more than 30 papers, which you will find in the ICCS publications list. The theses associated with the project are by Matthew Sommerville, Aidan Keane, Guru Guillera Arroita and Jose Lahoz Monfort.