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Conservation: smart advocacy needs data

Nature volume 540, page 38 (01 December 2016) | Download Citation

We agree that data alone will not save species (A. M. Ellison Nature 538, 141; 2016). However, using data in combination with smart advocacy can make a difference.

For example, ecologists specializing in seabirds, fishes and coral reefs shared their data to show that protection of an area in the northwest Hawaiian Islands was scientifically justified. This evidence was required in order to use the US Antiquities Act to conserve the region. As a result, this became the world's largest no-take protected area earlier this year.

Contrary to Aaron Ellison's implication, some ecologists have been inspirational advocates for biodiversity. For example, biologist E. O. Wilson campaigns to protect half the planet (Half-Earth; Norton, 2016) and ecologist Daniel Janzen helped to save huge tracts of dry forest in Costa Rica (W. Allen Green Phoenix; Oxford Univ. Press, 2003).

More scientists need to be engaged with society and make the case for conservation — with good, compelling data in hand. None of us wants our publications to serve as pages in a wildlife obituary.

Author information


  1. University of California, Santa Barbara, USA.

    • Douglas J. McCauley
    •  & Francis H. Joyce
  2. Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA.

    • Jane Lubchenco


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Correspondence to Douglas J. McCauley.

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