How do RAP surveys differ from other taxonomic surveys?
Technically, the name "RAP" is trademarked by CI and thus can be used only by CI's Rapid Assessment Program. This is important for RAP and CI since we don't really want our name to be used when we don't have any knowledge of, or input into, the quality of the survey. This is true both within and outside of CI.
RAP surveys are similar to any rapid biodiversity survey but have a few key elements:
1) The objective of a RAP survey is to quickly collect biodiversity data to guide conseration action. We do not have a purely academic focus, as many other biodiversity surveys do, but instead are collecting data that will feed directly into conservation decision making processes. RAP surveys are not intensive and do not record all species in an area; they target taxonomic groups and sites that will provide key information needed for conservation such as the presence of threatened and endemic species, habitat condition, and threats to the documented species. RAP surveys also produce specific recommendations for the conservation of the species and habitats surveyed.
2) RAP surveys are always multi-disciplinary, surveying a broad range of taxonomic groups that together will provide a good picture of the biodiversity at a site. Taxa usually surveyed include: plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and selected insect groups for Terrestrial RAP surveys; fishes, aquatic plants, aquatic invertebrates, limnology for AquaRAP surveys; and corals, marine invertebrates, fishes and reef condition for Marine RAP surveys.
3) RAP surveys are conducted rapidly in the field- usually no more than 3-4 weeks total (for 2-3 sites), but must include a minimum of 5 nights sampling per site to obtain a reasonably thorough documention of the biodiversity and to allow for some comparisons between RAP sites. Field methods for RAP surveys must be quick and efficient to document as many species as possible in this short time.
4) Taxonomic experts are involved in RAP surveys in order to best sample and identify the species. RAP surveys include both international and local expert scientists as appropriate and involve students and local community members as trainees as much as possible.
5) In addition to rapid field methods, specimen identification and report preparation must be done within a year of the survey, thus requiring rapid identification and analysis as well. Final reports must include specific conservation recommendations that can be used to manage and/or protect species of conservation concern and overall biodiversity.
6) Results from all RAP surveys must be made widely available, particularly to stakeholders of the survey area, as soon as possible. RAP holds press conferences and community consultations before and after surveys, distributes a preliminary report within 2 months of the survey, and publish a final report in the RAP Bulletin of Biological Assessment series a year after the survey. All reports are distributed widely and without cost through CI field offices and the internet (see Library).
Can a RAP survey be conducted outside of CI Hotspots and Wilderness Areas?
Yes, as long as CI has approved it and the RAP program in involved in some way to assure quality and consistency with our approach. Usually only CI programs can call their survey a "RAP" (as I explained above) but we sometimes work with partners and agree that they can call their survey a RAP. Otherwise, they can call it a biodiversity survey or assessment, a rapid biodiversity assessment, etc.
How are RAP sites selected?
The RAP program usually responds to requests from CI field programs for assistance in carrying out a RAP survey in their region. Some field programs conduct their own and follow our guidelines (such as Madagascar). We also get input from expert scientists for their recommendations about places that have not been surveyed. We recently did a scientific prioritization analysis for Papua New Guinea to determine the best sites for RAP surveys basesd on habitat types, topography, climate, etc overlayed with where surveys have already taken place. We are currently in the process of conducting a global prioritization analysis to determine the most important sites for conservation (e.g. critical habitat under threat) that have yet to be surveyed.
How are RAP surveys funded?
CI seeks funding for RAP surveys from many different sources, including individual donors, foundations, governments, and local sources within the target areas. The early RAP surveys were funded by USAID, the McArthur Foundation, and the Rufford Foundation which funded a series of RAP surveys in South America. We sometimes get funding from industry (e.g. oil and mining companies) to conduct a RAP survey in areas where they are thinking about mining to provide information and recommendations about the importance of the biodiversity at a site before they decide to work there. RAP surveys usually involve many partners from a wide variety of institutions, including museums, universities, governments, and other NGOs, each of which donate their time and some resouces to the RAP survey.