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Research reveals remarkable impact of global conservation efforts: 'When conservation actions work, they really work'

"Many times greater."

"Many times greater."

Photo Credit: iStock

Together everyone achieves more — a statement made to encourage people to work together. It turns out it's true, and the difference can be seen in the world's plants and animals. A new study has shown that the money and effort spent conserving biodiversity are making a measurable difference. 

As detailed by Anthropocene, the study, published in Science, was the first-ever global analysis to assess whether conservation programs — from wildlife reserves to eradicating invasive species — are achieving their goals. 

Thirty-three scientists funded by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and affiliated with universities, governments, and conservation groups gathered and examined the track records of conservation initiatives. The results were encouraging. 

Study participant and vice president of the conservation group Re:wild, Penny Langhammer, said, "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. What we show with this paper is that conservation is, in fact, working."

Anthropocene explained that to get their findings, researchers examined the results of 186 studies on various conservation strategies and compared the results to circumstances where nothing was done. 

They found that the metrics showed that 45% displayed a marked improvement in biodiversity, and intervention led to at least a slowed decline in another 21%. 

The largest effect was seen in efforts to remove invasive species, such as those happening in Florida, Guernsey, and Maryland, to name a few. Restoring and curbing the loss of habitats and sustainable ecosystem management, such as forest management plans, were close behind. 

There were big misses as well — almost a quarter of the time, attempts at conservation seemed to do more harm than good, and in 12% of cases, things improved more without help from humans. Yet, overall, the results are positive. 

Healthy ecosystems benefit the flora and fauna that call them home and humans who rely on them for their livelihoods. Despite the results and government efforts to increase protection of endangered species, the researchers say long-term success at scale will rely on spending money on biodiversity protection — a lot of it — possibly between $178 billion and $524 billion annually. 

"We need to invest more in nature and continue doing so in a sustained way," said Claude Gascon, a study co-author with the Global Environment Facility. 

We can all help by voting for pro-climate candidates willing to invest and getting involved in local conservation projects. 

"Our study shows that when conservation actions work, they really work," said Jake Bicknell, a conservation scientist at the United Kingdom's University of Kent, who took part in the study.

"In other words, they often lead to outcomes for biodiversity that are not just a little bit better than doing nothing at all, but many times greater." 

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