Conservation slowing biodiversity loss, scientists say

  • Written by Esme Stallard
  • Climate and science correspondent, BBC News

Image source, Robin Moore/Re:Wildness

Comment on the photo, Cuban crocodiles are in a breeding reserve – one of a number of conservation measures being studied

A large study has shown that conservation actions are effective in reducing global biodiversity loss.

International researchers have spent 10 years researching measures, from hatching Chinook salmon to eliminating invasive algae.

The authors said their findings provided a “beam of light” for those working to protect endangered animals and plants.

One in three species monitored is currently threatened with extinction due to human activities.

In the first study of its kind, published in the journal Science, scientists from dozens of research institutes reviewed 665 trials of conservation measures, some dating back to 1890, in different countries, oceans and across species types, and found they had a positive effect in two out of three cases.

Dr Penny Langhammer, co-author, and deputy chief executive of environmental charity Re:wild, told BBC News: ‘If you read the headlines about extinction these days, it would be easy to get the impression that we are failing biodiversity – but that’s not true.’ . Really looking at the whole picture.

“This study provides the strongest evidence to date that conservation not only improves the status of biodiversity and slows its decline, but when it works, it actually works.”

Success stories include:

  • Deforestation rates decreased by 74% in the Congo Basin, after the introduction of management plans
  • Reproduction rates of lesser terns have doubled, due to predator management on Florida’s barrier islands.

However, in one in five cases, these measures caused the target species to decline.

But Dr Langhammer said: “One of the most interesting findings is that even when the intended species conservation intervention did not work, other species inadvertently benefited.”

For example, the establishment of marine protected areas for Australian seahorses has resulted in more of them being eaten as the numbers of their natural predators increase.

Image source, BBC Studios/Rafa Herrero Maceo

Comment on the photo, Predator management on Florida’s barrier islands has led to more successful nesting of the loggerhead turtle

Climate change, habitat loss and the spread of invasive species are thought to be to blame.

Dr Joseph Ball, co-author and associate professor of climate change biology at the University of Oxford, told BBC News that if conservation is to be successful, it is clear that these measures are not being funded on a sufficient scale to actually begin to reverse the global decline in climate change. Biodiversity. .

They have set a goal of mobilizing at least $200 billion (£160 billion) annually from public and private sources.

but Only estimated Currently, $121 billion annually is invested in environmental conservation around the world.

Image source, BBC Studios/Sam Lewis

Comment on the photo, The saiga antelope was threatened with extinction 20 years ago, but after conservation efforts, in 2023, it was confirmed to be off the red list.

Professor of Environmental Biology at the University of Sussex, Dr Fiona Matthews, who was not involved in the research, said the research showed that “conservation interventions can work”.

But she added: “I was struck by the lack of representation of the Global South in the analysis, with only a few papers from the biodiversity hotspots of sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South America, and Southeast Asia.

“This is unfortunately a reflection of academic publishing, funding and research, rather than a failure on the part of the authors.”

Half of the trials the researchers evaluated were in Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Dr Paul agreed and said the next phase of research would look at other areas of the world but “the only thing I would say is that it is very clear that this does not change the results”.

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