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Early warning system to save species.

Managers of wildlife conservation programs are being helped by a method commonly encountered in industrial and service industries.

University of Kent


IMAGE: This is Dr Simon Black, Researcher and Learning Development Consultant, University of Kent. view more

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Managers of wildlife conservation programmes are being helped by a method commonly encountered in industrial and service industries.

Dr Simon Black, of Kent's Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), has developed a number of techniques that are more commonly seen in business settings to encourage improvements in conservation management.

In his latest publication in the International Journal of Ecology, Dr Black argues that new insight into ecological problems is needed to enable practitioners to devise how best to manage and improve situations for endangered species.

His paper proposes one tool, the 'systems behaviour chart', which conservation managers can use to focus their decisions, goals and interventions on the purpose of conservation work, in order to act faster and with greater impact to save species.

For example, systems behaviour charts would have prompted straightforward landscape management to halt the terminal decline of a ground squirrel population in the US since signals in existing species' population data would have been identified three years ahead of the population's eventual demise.

The effectiveness of current approaches can also be examined, for example increases in Florida manatee deaths due to collisions with watercraft are shown not to be an inevitable outcome from the increasing numbers of boats found on waterways, since the charts indicate that mortality levels can be significantly stabilised with sensible waterway traffic measures.

Conversely, as an early warning system, the charts indicate that while the successful recovery of the Puerto Rican parrot has been notable, the wild population still exhibits wide fluctuations in numbers and the species' survival could be threatened by a single extreme tropical storm, so suitable contingencies need to be identified.


Note to editors

A clear project purpose and realistic goals are highlighted by Dr Black in a separate contribution to the journal Conservation Letters. Black illustrates how a correctly defined conservation purpose enables leaders to set better goals and focus their team' efforts to achieve the best outcomes from the start.

Conservation programmes offered by the School of Anthropology and Conservation at the University of Kent are delivered by members of DICE, the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology. DICE is Britain's leading research centre dedicated to conserving biodiversity and the ecological processes that support ecosystems and people. It pursues innovative and cutting-edge research to develop the knowledge that underpins conservation.

For further information or interview requests contact Sandy Fleming at the University of Kent Press Office.

Tel: 01227 823581/01634 888879


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Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked: third for overall student satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey; 16th in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

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