The World Has Spent $14B on Conservation – and it Worked

The World Has Spent $14B on Conservation – and it Worked

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If it ever feels like the world is beyond saving, think again – this new study is one of the first of its kind to measure just how much of a difference our conservation efforts are making based on the money we have spent.

The paper, which was published in Nature earlier this week, explains how 109 countries collectively spent roughly $14.4 billion over the course of a decade on initiatives that specifically promoted conservation. These initiatives include providing support for the management of protected areas like national parks and, reserves; supporting conservation infrastructure; training conservation officers; and educating the public.

And based on the researchers’ data, the financing of these initiatives helped slow biodiversity loss in all 109 countries by a median average of 29%.

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This is especially exciting news for encouraging conservation in the future, says University of Illinois assistant professor Daniel Miller.

“Effective conservation requires financial resources but donors and governments have been reluctant to provide the needed financing. Part of the reason is that there hasn’t been good evidence that previous funds have been effective,” says Miller.

“Investing in conservation pushes back on the weights that bring biodiversity down by 29 percent. We were surprised at how positive the finding was. We had a hunch that the funding would be effective, but didn’t realize it would be this effective,” he added.

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Based on financial data from 1992 to 2003 – which was the decade following the groundbreaking 1990 Earth Summit – the financing promoted healthier ecosystems worldwide between 1996 and 2008. Countries that spent more money on their national conservation efforts, like Brazil, saw an even greater reduction in danger towards their habitats and native species, as opposed to the countries that didn’t.

“The main message is that conservation is working, but that we need to boost investment to meet international policy targets,” said co-author Joseph Tobias in a statement. “In addition, the results show how conservation funding may need to change over time.”

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The evidence-based model that the researchers used to compare the data can now help world leaders plan conservation goals and efforts for the future.

“Decision-makers can use this model to forecast the improvement that any proposed biodiversity budget would achieve under various scenarios of human development pressure, and then compare these forecasts to any chosen policy target,” said the researchers.

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