When governments need to save money or development pressures increase, it is unfortunately sectors such as conservation that suffer the hardest. Often seen as a black hole into which lots of money is paid but very little is achieved, a new study is finally putting this myth to rest.
Writing in Nature, the researchers have found that while between the years of 1992 and 2003 nations around the world spent $14.4 billion on conservation, this undoubtedly had a net positive impact. In fact, they found that this investment was enough to reduce the predicted declines in biodiversity over the same period by as much as 29 percent.
The authors of the research have just one clear message: conservation funding works. The study has looked at the money funneled into conservation from 109 counties that signed up to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, with the specific aim to reduce biodiversity loss within those signatory nations.
“For 25 years, we have known that we need to spend more on nature conservation, or face a modern mass extinction as serious as that of the dinosaurs,” said Oxford University’s Anthony Waldron, who led the research. “But governments and donors have been unwilling to come up with the necessary budgets, often because there was little hard evidence that the money spent on conservation does any good.”
“This finding should now encourage decision makers to re-engage with the Earth Summit's positive vision, and adequately bankroll the protection of Earth's biodiversity today.”
Interestingly the research also revealed some other surprising insights. They found, for example, that up to 60 percent of all the world’s biodiversity loss is found within just seven countries. Unsurprisingly, places with rapid development like China and India are listed, as well as island nations with huge levels of deforestation like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea.
But also making the list are two western nations. Inevitably, with its high level of endemism and pretty terrible record on the environment, Australia is one of the seven nations with the highest level of biodiversity loss, yet interestingly, so is the United States. The study notes that the US is facing problems mainly because of the losses seen in Hawaii, also facing issues due to its island status where species are more vulnerable. This provides areas where nations can increase their success but limit the amount they actually need to spend.
So when it is argued that conservation is pointless and a waste of resources and money, it’s safe to say that that is simply not true. Now if only politicians will listen.