Selinske, M. J., Garrard, G. E., Gregg, E. A., Kusmanoff, A. M., Kidd, L. R., Cullen, M. T., … & Bekessy, S. A. (2020). Identifying and prioritizing human behaviors that benefit biodiversity. Conservation Science and Practice, 2(9), e249.
In a nutshell: There are many behaviours and campaigns that promote things like energy saving, reduced water consumption, recycling, etc, but there are few that are specifically targeted at protecting biodiversity. To address this, Selinske et al. (self-promotion alert!) used a behavioural prioritization method to identify and rank individual ‘everyday’ behaviours that could help deliver benefits for biodiversity.
Human behaviour is a major driver of the threats to nature. This means that how we act can help play an important role in supporting nature. But sometimes it’s challenging to determine what actions we should focus efforts on.
The researchers (hey that’s us!) drew on the expertise of a range of conservation experts from a range of organisations. These included ecologists, behaviour change specialists, psychologists, conservation scientists, threatened species specialists, social-ecological systems researchers, and science communication experts. (This was undertaken in Melbourne with a focus on local biodiversity benefits).
We elicited 27 separate behaviours that individuals could undertake to either benefit or reduce negative impacts on biodiversity.
For each behaviour, we then used an elicitation approach to estimate the corresponding plasticity (or capacity for change) and positive impact on biodiversity outcomes.
These behaviours were then prioritised on the basis of their anticipated value to biodiversity, and their capacity for being adopted (i.e. plasticity).
We also incorporated the current prevalence of the behaviours within the population into the prioritisation. This is helpful to ensure that those the behaviours that may be highly effective, as indicated by high impact and high plasticity, are also of low current prevalence that a promotion campaign for the behaviour would yield benefit (i.e. additionality).
The top ten priority behaviours are:
- Choose Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified seafood products (https://www.msc.org/en-au)
- Responsible dog ownership—Dogs on leashes in natural areas and picking up after your dog
- Reduce beef and lamb consumption (https://www.abc.net.au/everyday/simple-ways-to-eat-less-meat/11685548)
- Donate to private land protection organizations (https://alca.org.au/)
- Choose biodiversity-friendly investments (e.g., sustainable super funds)
- Donate to organizations that focus on threatened species and ecosystem advocacy
- Plant and maintain a wildlife garden (https://www.vic.gov.au/our-10-diy-hacks-make-your-garden-wildlife-haven)
- Vote for political candidates based on environmental policies
- Responsible cat ownership—Keep cat fully contained (https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/how-can-i-keep-my-cat-safe-and-happy-at-home/)
- Advocate publicly for pest animal control including both native and alien species
Although these behaviours were generated specifically thinking of a Victorian context, they are likely representative of priority behaviours in similar settings. Identifying priority behaviours that can help achieve key biodiversity outcomes is only the first step in building an effective behaviour change campaign. These will often utilise multiple interventions and taking account of structural, psychological, or other barriers to adopting the target behaviour. ‘The Method’ detailed by BehaviourWorks Australia (Monash University) offers an excellent place to start (https://www.behaviourworksaustralia.org/the-method/).