Defining and using evidence in conservation practice

Nick Salafsky, Judith Boshoven, Zuzana Burivalova, Natalie S. Dubois, Andres Gomez, Arlyne Johnson, Aileen Lee, Richard Margoluis, John Morrison, Matthew Muir, Stephen C. Pratt, Andrew S. Pullin, Daniel Salzer, Annette Stewart, William J. Sutherland, Claire F.R. Wordley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


There is growing interest in evidence-based conservation, yet there are no widely accepted standard definitions of evidence, let alone guidance on how to use it in the context of conservation and natural resource management practice. In this paper, we first draw on insights of evidence-based practice from different disciplines to define evidence as being the “relevant information used to assess one or more hypotheses related to a question of interest.” We then construct a typology of different kinds of information, hypotheses, and evidence and show how these different types can be used in different steps of conservation practice. In particular, we distinguish between specific evidence used to assess project hypotheses and generic evidence used to assess generic hypotheses. We next build on this typology to develop a decision tree to support practitioners in how to appropriately use available specific and generic evidence in a given conservation situation. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of how to better promote and enable evidence-based conservation in both projects and across the discipline of conservation. Our hope is that by understanding and using evidence better, conservation can both become more effective and attract increased support from society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere27
JournalConservation Science and Practice
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • adaptive management
  • biodiversity
  • environmental evidence
  • evidence-based conservation
  • evidencebased practice
  • natural resource management
  • project management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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