Turning Science into Action: Biodiversity Conservation and Natural Resources Management in Africa

By Brottem, Leif | African Studies Review, December 2011 | Go to article overview

Turning Science into Action: Biodiversity Conservation and Natural Resources Management in Africa


Brottem, Leif, African Studies Review


GEOGRAPHY, ENVIRONMENT, AND DEMOGRAPHY E. Kalipeni, et al. Turning Science into Action: Biodiversity Conservation and Natural Resources Management in Af rica. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 2009. 638 pp. Maps. Illustrations. Bibliography. Index. $39.95. Paper.

Turning Science into Action is an ambitious and far-reaching edited volume that focuses on several of the key challenges to biodiversity conservation in sub-Saharan Africa. The volume is the result of a major conference that took place in Kigali, Rwanda, in 2007. The overarching objective of the conference was to identify ways in which science can improve complementary approaches to species conservation and sustainable development. The focus on science stems, in part, from the stated goal of Rwanda's Vision 2020 to put science and technology at the core of its long-term development strategy.

The extensive volume is divided into four broad themes: (1) conservation biology; (2) sustainable management of natural resources; (3) ecosystem health; and (4) economics, tourism, conservation, and communities. Within each theme, a broad array of topics and methodologies reflects the transdisciplinary nature of conservation science and practice.

A major strength of this volume is that it functions as a showcase for the remarkable breadth and depth of conservation research conducted by African scientists. Noteworthy chapters cover novel approaches to water management (Warner, chapter 6) and an assessment of wedand services in a changing urban context (Rugege and Mukankomeje, chapter 15). The most innovative thematic section of the volume is clearly the one concerning linkages among landscapes, ecology, biodiversity, and health. Global environmental health is a rapidly growing field as scientists identify previously unknown connections among ecosystem function, landscape configurations, and disease vectors that pose threats to both humans and wildlife.

Jacob et al. (chapter 16) present an innovative modeling approach to understanding the aquatic habitats of A. arabiensis, an important vector for various strains of the malaria parasites. Although the chapter lacks a clear link to biodiversity conservation, it presents methods that can be utilized in the monitoring of changing wildlife habitat. Chapter 25 (Mudakikwa and Kock) presents a case study of ecosystem health management in Akagera National Park (Rwanda). The case study is an informative vehicle for oudining a new paradigm of "conservation medicine" that builds on the fundamental connections between the health of species (human and nonhuman) and productive, well-functioning ecosystems.

It is not possible to put a monetary value on the intrinsic worth of biodiversity, but it is nonetheless critical to acknowledge the economic importance of wildlife tourism to several national economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

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