Guest byte from Diogo Veríssimo
Thomas-Walters, L., McCallum, J., Montgomery, R., Petros, C., Wan, A. K. Y., & Veríssimo, D. (2022). Systematic review of conservation interventions to promote voluntary behavior change. Conservation Biology. https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.14000
In a nutshell:
- When it comes to looking at changing actual behaviour to conserve the environment the evidence base is limited as most studies do not measure actual behaviour.
- There was evidence that education, prompts and feedback interventions can result in positive behaviour change, although the evidence is highly skewed towards high income countries.
The idea that changing behaviour is a key tool to conserve nature is by now common currency in conservation science. But in at least one way this is surprising: we lack even basic knowledge of how effective our attempts to shift behaviour are. This seems like a pretty big deal if influencing behaviour is to be taken seriously as a tool to help conserve biodiversity. We took on the challenge of reviewing the effectiveness of those interventions that do not rely on legal change or on payments to influence human behaviour towards more environmentally friendly alternatives. We focused only on those interventions that measured actual behaviour and that had a believable counterfactual which explains why out of 300,000 initial articles we ended up reviewing 128 studies. This discrepancy was largely because few studies measured actual behaviour, most focusing instead on often weak proxies like knowledge or attitudes. So, what did we learn? We found strong evidence that education, prompts and feedback interventions can result in positive behaviour change, but change is particularly likely when multiple intervention types are used. Surprisingly, neither exposure duration nor frequency had an effect on the likelihood of behaviour change. We also found only one study that reported a negative finding, suggesting that there is a large potential publication bias that could bias the conclusions of reviews such as this.
To sum up, biodiversity needs robustly evaluated behavioural interventions that measure actual behaviour but also changes in biodiversity, carried out in places where biodiversity is richest. More quality not quantity should be our mantra.
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