Postdoctoral University of Toronto-Scarborough Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Neotropical region is a crucial hub of global biodiversity, but it has been grappling with numerous challenges, including habitat destruction and overfishing. One major issue is the lack of biodiversity knowledge, ranging from species identification to functional roles, which is still primarily generated by researchers based in the Global North. This approach fails to engage local stakeholders and support the development of local researchers, perpetuating colonial legacies and exacerbating global and local knowledge and resource inequalities. In this abstract, we propose collective individual behaviors and institutional policies that can promote equitable relationships among local, regional, and international partners to advance biodiversity knowledge and conservation in the Neotropics. To advance equitable research in the Neotropics, a key strategy is to establish a diverse team that represents a range of perspectives and strategies to understand biodiversity and its importance, including local stakeholders. To achieve this, it is essential that individual behaviors and institutional policies promote co-development, transparency in resource management, and equal workload and benefits. By designing research in this way, resources can be optimized, local research capacity can be built, and outcomes can be distributed fairly. Second, environmental policies and institutions in several regions of the Neotropics are facing political challenges. In response, local researchers must take an active role in shaping the environmental discourse and not maintain a position of scientific neutrality and promote effective public policies. International researchers should publicly support their local partners. Lastly, it is crucial for international partners and institutions to enhance access to funding opportunities for researchers based in the Neotropics. This entails not only increasing the availability of resources but also supporting the leadership of Neotropical-based researchers in resource acquisition. For instance, international funders can prioritize producing calls in Spanish and Portuguese. Furthermore, international institutions can demonstrate their commitment to equity by recruiting Global South researchers who can serve as a bridge between countries. These measures will help redress the historical and structural inequalities that have disadvantaged researchers in the Global South. The implementation of these individual and institutional practices underscores the importance of Global South leaders taking a leading role, with international partners and institutions providing support. By working together in this way, we can promote environmental justice and conservation in the Neotropics. It is essential that we prioritize these collective behaviors, recognizing that they are crucial to addressing the complex challenges facing this region and advancing sustainable development for all.