Using science to guide conservation: from landscape modelling to increased connectivity in the Taita Hills, SE Kenya.
Using science knowledge to guide conservation action remains difficult; communication gaps persist, especially between scientists and other stakeholders including policy makers. Here, we demonstrate how we have managed to integrate scientific knowledge into consensually formulated conservation actions in the Taita Hills, Kenya. GIS-based least-cost modelling, together with sociological and forest characteristics were used to determine and prioritise the most appropriate areas for reforestation from a set of exotic forest plantations targeted for conversion into indigenous forests. This prioritisation was done through a succession of three workshops (on site) used to reach multiple stakeholders, build consensus on conservation actions, and formulate an implementation framework. Indigenous tree nurseries have now been established to provide planting stock for the reforestation activities agreed upon after the final workshop. The key lesson we learned from this exercise was that bridging the gap between science and conservation demands a very open, inter-disciplinary strategy, initiated and executed jointly by a diverse group of people that includes the Government (policy-makers and implementers), NGOs (conservationists and environmental advocates), scientists (researchers), conservationists and the local community. This study provides a pointer for what it may take to integrate human issues with sustained environmental management based on scientific knowledge.