Learning and the transformative potential of citizen science

Bela G., Peltola T., Young J.C., Balázs B., Arpin I., Pataki G., Hauck J., Kelemen E., Kopperoinen L., Van Herzele A., Keune H., Hecker S., Suškevičs M., Roy H.E., Itkonen P., Külvik M., László M., Basnou C., Pino J., Bonn A. (2016) Learning and the transformative potential of citizen science. Conservation Biology. : 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1111/cobi.12762

Resum:

The number of collaborative initiatives between scientists and volunteers (i.e., citizen science) is increasing across many research fields. The promise of societal transformation together with scientific breakthroughs contributes to the current popularity of citizen science (CS) in the policy domain. We examined the transformative capacity of citizen science in particular learning through environmental CS as conservation tool. We reviewed the CS and social-learning literature and examined 14 conservation projects across Europe that involved collaborative CS. We also developed a template that can be used to explore learning arrangements (i.e., learning events and materials) in CS projects and to explain how the desired outcomes can be achieved through CS learning. We found that recent studies aiming to define CS for analytical purposes often fail to improve the conceptual clarity of CS; CS programs may have transformative potential, especially for the development of individual skills, but such transformation is not necessarily occurring at the organizational and institutional levels; empirical evidence on simple learning outcomes, but the assertion of transformative effects of CS learning is often based on assumptions rather than empirical observation; and it is unanimous that learning in CS is considered important, but in practice it often goes unreported or unevaluated. In conclusion, we point to the need for reliable and transparent measurement of transformative effects for democratization of knowledge production. © 2016, Society for Conservation Biology.

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General declines in Mediterranean butterflies over the last two decades are modulated by species traits

Melero Y., Stefanescu C., Pino J. (2016) General declines in Mediterranean butterflies over the last two decades are modulated by species traits. Biological Conservation. 201: 336-342.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.07.029

Resum:

Species' responses to environmental changes are highly idiosyncratic and context-dependent. Although intrinsic traits (i.e. those that define species niches) may play a key role, little empirical evidence exists regarding their relationship to demographic responses. We used data for 66 butterfly species representing five ecological and two life-history traits to study the effect these factors have on population growth rates and variations in populations. Using a novel methodological approach, we provide here improved estimates of population change. Our results reveal declines in 70% and increases in 23% of the studied species, clear evidence of more serious population declines in Catalan butterflies than those that have previously been reported. Declines were associated with species' degree of habitat specialisation and the number of generations. For all species, fluctuations were greater within than between years and, on average, the latter was 1.5 times greater. Our results indicated that habitat specialists and multivoltine species are more likely to suffer severe annual fluctuations in population abundance; and that multivoltine species and extreme larval specialists had the most marked fluctuations within seasons. We also found higher resilience to environmental changes in generalist species, which is concordant with biotic homogenisation in disturbed communities. However, among the declining species there were also many generalists, which indicates a potential general reduction in this group that goes beyond faunal homogenisation. Given butterflies are biodiversity indicators, these patterns are a possible reflection of an overall impoverishment in biodiversity. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd

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