Geography is the Problem: on the relevance of local case studies to global change and conservation science

Presented by
Jared Margulies
University Of Maryland Baltimore CountyAuthors
Margulies, Jd; Magliocca, N; Zink, C; Ellis, E

Introduction: What conservation problem or question does your study address?
Connecting the findings of local case study research to global or regional change processes and analysis continues to challenge the land change science and conservation communities. How case study locations and coverage are reported in the literature represents one of the broad challenges for connecting local case study research to global synthesis efforts. This paper deals with the problem of the geography of case studies for global change research.

Methods: What were the main research methods you used?
A large set of case studies (N=609) across the broadly defined discipline of land change science, inclusive of much of the conservation literature, was compiled from previously published meta-studies for analysis. Studies were mapped by a team of undergraduate and graduate researchers in an online collaborative research engine (GLOBE) and a set of quality scores were developed and assigned to case studies based on the ability of of the researchers to accurately represent the case study in Cartesian space. Studies were then analyzed in a post-hoc fashion to explore emergent patterns in the quality of spatial representation of case studies across disciplines. Analyses included investigating descriptive statistics about case study areas, geographic entity, as well as qualitative errors in how case study geometries were geographically represented within studies.

Results: What are your most important results?
This work presents the results of compiling and analyzing this large set of land change science case studies and identifies common errors in how case study geometries are reported in the literature. We also found statistically significant differences by discipline in the quality of how researchers publishing across the fields of conservation and the broader land change science community spatially represent case studies.

Discussion: What are your important discussion points and what is the relevance of your results to conservation (if any)?
This work demonstrates how errors in the spatial representation of case studies lead not only to ambiguous representations of the spatial extents of case studies, but also to limitations when interpreting the results of meta-studies and global relationships derived even from the same set of case study observations. This work concludes with recommendations relevant to the conservation community on improving the spatial representation of case studies.