Multi-level discrepancies with sharing data on protected areas: What we have and what we need for the global village
Conservation achievements, data policies, data sharing, databases, Management effectiveness, Metadata, Monitoring and evaluation, Open-access data, Protected areas, Scientific competitiveness, standardization, World Wide Web
Protected areas present a global heritage. Assessing conservation achievements in protected areas is of crucial importance with respect to the on-time delivery of international biodiversity conservation targets. However, monitoring data from publicly accessible databases for comparative studies of conservation achievements in the protected areas of the world are very scarce, if not non-existent. At first glance this is surprising because, with regards to protected areas, at least according to well established protected area management guidelines and widely accepted public mandates, a great deal of monitoring work and data gathering is to be conducted. This would imply that data on changes of biodiversity in protected areas could be expected to exist, and the constant progress in information technologies and Web tools engenders hope that some of it might even be available online for the global public. This review article presents the results of an extensive online search and review of existing monitoring data from freely accessible online databases for its use in an assessment of conservation achievements in a larger sample of protected areas. Results show two contrary sides to the status quo of accessible data from the World Wide Web for conservation science: data overkill and data scarcity with poor metadata provision. While ever more research is, in fact, based on open-access online data, such as extrapolations of species ranges used in conservation management and planning, it remains almost impossible to obtain a basic set of information for an assessment of conservation achievements within a larger number of protected areas. This awareness has triggered a detailed discussion about the discrepancies in sharing data at the level of protected areas; mismatching relationships between expected activities in protected areas and the capacity for delivering these requirements are certainly among the main challenges. In addition, the fear of data misuse potentially resulting in harm for nature, careers, and competencies still seems to be a critical barrier strictly controlling the willingness to share data. Various initiatives aimed at tackling technical and cultural obstacles are introduced and discussed to reach the goal of a modern resource management based on adaptive management using digital opportunities of the new millennium for a sustainable global village.