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Lindenmayer DB, MP Piggott and BA Wintle (2013) Counting the books while the library burns: why conservation monitoring programs need a plan for action. FRONTIERS IN ECOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT 11:549-555

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Conservation monitoring programs are critical for identifying many elements of species ecology and for detecting changes in populations. However, without articulating how monitoring information will trigger relevant conservation actions, programs that monitor species until they become extinct are at odds with the primary goal of conservation: avoiding biodiversity loss. Here, we outline cases in which species were monitored until they suffered local, regional, or global extinction in the absence of a preplanned intervention program, and contend that conservation monitoring programs should be embedded within a management plan and characterized by vital attributes to ensure their effectiveness. These attributes include: (1) explicit articulation of how monitoring information will inform conservation actions, (2) transparent specification of trigger points within monitoring programs at which strategic interventions will be implemented, and (3) rigorous quantification of the ability to achieve early detection of change.