School of GeoSciences

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Wed, 10/04/2019

Conservationists broadly agree on goals for protecting the natural world – but not how to move towards them, a survey shows.

Those working in the field believe that maintaining ecosystems, securing public support, and reducing the environmental impact of the world’s richest people should be priorities.  However, the community is divided on whether to place economic value on nature, among other issues, according to the views of more than 9,200 conservationists in 140 countries.

Researchers behind the study hope that their findings can inform global goals to be set at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Beijing in 2020.  These will shape conservation strategy for the following decade.  The study, carried out by the Universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh and Leeds, is published in Nature Sustainability.

Majority agreement was found among conservationists for goals based on scientific evidence, as well as for giving a voice to people affected by those goals.  There was also general agreement that population growth should be reduced and that humans are part of nature.  Demographic differences highlighted in the study included that women lean more towards conservation that aims to benefit communities and give them a say in conservation decisions, while men tend to favour an approach associated with protecting nature for its own sake.  Invasive species also proved to be a divisive issue.  Some 35 per cent of conservationists think non-native species offer little value to conservation, while half disagree.

Researchers say that despite best efforts to reach as many conservationists around the world as possible, their survey is still skewed towards Europe and North America.  Despite these challenges of a skewed sample, the diversity of opinion the study is helping to reveal is often underrepresented in conservation decision making.  

Dr Chris Sandbrook, University of Cambridge, said: 

"There will be huge decisions taken about the future of conservation in the next 18 months. Let’s make sure we ask the whole global community, so we can build an inclusive and effective movement."

Dr Janet Fisher, School of GeoSciences, said:

"As we head towards the UN meeting in China next year at which key priorities for conservation will be decided, it is helpful to define points of agreement and contention, and show how widening consultation within the community matters."

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Conservation aims set out ahead of UN summitConservation aims set out ahead of UN summit