Life beyond meta-analysis in conservation biology

By Tibor Hartel

The era of meta-analysis is knocking in the door of conservation biology and applied ecology. This is probably natural after the accumulated information translated into scientific papers: besides the study of the vanishing ecological systems now scientific papers are subjected to analysis. Papers are reviewed and meta-analysed and the results are published in new scientific papers. These will identify new gaps in knowledge, which should be filled in order to advance knowledge in conservation biology.

I wonder what will happen after the many research areas of applied ecology and conservation biology will all be meta-analysed. What would ecologists do in such a world?:) A theoretical biologist may have the excuse of producing even more theories. We, conservation biologists may not allow this luxury. After everything was meta-analysed, we may not allow repeating studies and generating the same, known, results. Because we know everything: we know that amphibians suffer in fragmented landscapes but not in unfragmented ones, and we know about the minimum viable population sizes and the ‘third of the third rule’ and everything what is possible (and impossible) to know. And we know all extinction thresholds and where and why ecological systems approach them or crossed them already. Results like ‘hey, the skylark is declining here too, because of the same reasons than there!’ will have no place anymore. We will know everything what is possible (and impossible) about what should be do to stop biodiversity loss. The new meta-analyses (of the 2050`s…) even will show that although there are many ways of making the people aware about the multiple consequences of biodiversity loss, and some methods of engaging people (in listening conservation biologists…) are more effective than others, when it is about doing something about this nobody really cares and the degradation of ecosystems and biodiversity continues in an even increasing rate. The very last meta-analyses in conservation biology probably will have some nice figures showing the (fastly increasing) number of conservation biologists which were converted into social or political scientists, agronomists, food nutritionists, statisticians and so on (many scientists will even leave academia). Conservation biology will be about people probably: people will study each other, then meta-analyse the published social papers and who knows what will happen after that?

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