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Effective conservation efforts are key to saving biodiversity

A recent study provides compelling evidence that conservation efforts are both effective and essential for reversing the concerning trend of biodiversity loss.

Published on April 25 in the scientific journal Science, this pivotal research analyzed data from 186 studies involving 665 trials worldwide, marking a significant milestone in conservation science.

The research is particularly crucial as it addresses the survival of over 44,000 species currently at risk of extinction. Moreover, these species are integral to ecosystems that stabilize the climate and provide essential resources to billions of people globally.

Conservation actions to deliver biodiversity results

Led by Penny Langhammer, Executive Vice President of Re:wild, the study showcases that conservation actions are indeed making a difference.

“If you look only at the trend of species declines, it would be easy to think that we’re failing to protect biodiversity, but you would not be looking at the full picture,” Langhammer explained. She emphasized the success of these efforts and the need for enhanced global support and resources to continue these positive trends.

The meta-analysis examined a range of conservation interventions, including the management of protected areas and the control of invasive species. It found significant positive outcomes in 66% of the cases studied, indicating that these actions have either improved or slowed the decline of biodiversity.

For instance, effective management on Florida’s barrier islands markedly increased the nesting success of loggerhead turtles and least terns. Similarly, in the Congo Basin, areas under managed logging experienced a 74% reduction in deforestation rates.

Learning from failures is key

“Our study shows that when conservation actions work, they really work,” highlighted Jake Bicknell, a co-author and conservation scientist. Additionally, the study presents numerous instances where conservation measures led to substantial improvements in species population sizes.

Despite these successes, the study also acknowledges instances where conservation efforts did not yield the desired biodiversity results. In India, for instance, the physical removal of invasive algae inadvertently led to its spread. Such outcomes have provided valuable lessons, prompting the refinement of conservation strategies.

The analysis showed a positive correlation between recent conservation efforts and successful outcomes, likely due to increased funding and targeted interventions. Interestingly, even when targeted biodiversity didn’t directly benefit, other native species often did, highlighting the complex nature of ecological interventions.

The financial implications of biodiversity conservation are staggering. With more than half of the world’s GDP, nearly $44 trillion, dependent on nature, the study underscores the economic rationality of investing in conservation.

Comparatively, the annual investment required for effective global conservation is minuscule against the backdrop of global expenditures, such as the $7 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies noted in 2022.

“Conservation action works—this is what the science clearly shows us,” explained Claude Gascon, co-author and director at the Global Environment Facility. He stressed the need for continued investment to maintain the positive outcomes of conservation efforts.

Advancing conservation research for a sustainable future

As the global community sets ambitious biodiversity targets, the study calls for more comprehensive and rigorous research into various conservation interventions across more geographic locations.

“This paper has analyzed conservation outcomes at a level as rigorous as in applied disciplines like medicine and engineering—showing genuine impact and thus guiding the transformative change needed to safeguard nature at scale around the world,” stated Grethel Aguilar, IUCN Director General.

This study not only confirms the efficacy of current conservation strategies but also emphasizes the need for well-resourced and effectively managed protected areas.

As the evidence mounts, it is clear that nature conservation must be prioritized, adequately funded, and vigorously pursued to ensure a sustainable future for our planet.

The full study is published in the journal Science.


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